Liverpool recorded a 2-0 win over RB Leipzig in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Last 16 tie. Here are five things we learned from a very impressive win.
There was absolutely no chance that Liverpool went into this season planning to start Curtis Jones in a Champions League Last 16 game. Yet that’s what happened.
Jones started the fixture and no one batted an eyelid. The Scouser has come on leaps and bounds this season, developing into a full-fledged first-team player.
This was a further example of that as Jones played wonderfully in a high-pressure game. The sky feels like the limit right now for a player who will save Liverpool a fortune.
We doubt Jurgen Klopp wanted to play that midfield. It was a very attacking trio in Gini Wijnaldum, Thiago and Jones – not exactly the best choice in a Champions League fixture. Especially with questions over Thiago’s defending.
But with Fabinho out, James Milner out, and Jordan Henderson in defence, Klopp had little choice. His only other midfield option was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – another attacking player.
Away teams go into these games with a ‘don’t lose’ attitude. That usually calls for a solid midfield. This injury crisis, however, robs Klopp of that.
The boss can be proud that his make-shift, unbalanced midfield managed to see this one through.
Both Mohamed Salah and then Sadio Mane grabbed goals purely off of Liverpool’s running power.
The first was just wonderful pressing from Roberto Firmino. It forced a bad pass straight to Salah who ran on to finish.
The second was different but cut from the same cloth. Jones lofted a high ball over the defence and Mane’s presence was enough to bring about a rushed, panicked attempt at a clearance.
That sent the Liverpool no.10 clean through on goal.
Both came from the threat Liverpool naturally have up top forcing errors. It’s certainly nice to see it’s still there despite the recent poor form.
Liverpool built their 2-0 win over RB Leipzig on that threat and, hopefully, they can carry that into their next few fixtures, too.
New False 9
Xherdan Shaqiri entered the game in the second half, replacing Roberto Firmino. He was a direct replacement, too, taking up a spot as a False 9.
We’ve got to imagine this is partly why Liverpool let Takumi Minamino leave on loan – they trust Shaqiri to play the role.
It appears that the Swiss playmaker will be Firmino’s backup for the rest of the campaign.
We just want to highlight how incredible Jordan Henderson has been in recent weeks. No, Liverpool haven’t played well recently but things would have been far worse without Henderson.
He’s dropped back into a brand new and completely unusual position. He’s playing alongside a 20-year-old who just arrived in the country two weeks ago.
And yet he’s also led his defence to a clean-sheet away from home in a Champions League knockout game. That is magnificent.