It was the moment we’d all been waiting for. Liverpool kicked off their 2018/19 Premier League campaign against West Ham at Anfield brimming with confidence and optimism for the season ahead.
The summer business had been done, and done well, bringing in Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho, the long-awaited Naby Keita and Brazil’s No.1 Alisson Becker to boot. Daniel Sturridge’s summer revival and the overall pre-season form had suggested this could really be Liverpool’s year with a 5-0 romping of Napoli only intensifying such opinion.
An opening day affair against a much-changed side can be a danger, though. West Ham had recruited well under the management of Manuel Pellegrini with five new names that made their debut in a much-changed XI in the hope of adding more flair and verve to a far too defensively minded side. However, there would be no change of fortunes here with the Reds largely untroubled for the ninety minutes, leaving Alisson twiddling his thumbs on his Premier League bow.
In their usual frenetic fashion, it was Liverpool who came out swinging in the opening exchanges, dominating possession without seriously challenging Fabianski in goal. Trent Alexander-Arnold showed his rustiness from Russia with a series of wayward crosses but there were plenty of signs Klopp’s side were going to live up to the hype of pre-season.
Step up, Mohamed Salah. The PFA Player of the Year continued where he left off from last season, steering home from close range after some brilliant build-up play from the Reds’ new No.8. Keita was arguably the most hyped signing Liverpool made this summer with fans eagerly awaiting his arrival at Anfield for over a year having sealed an early deal with Leipzig. You’d have understood the midfielder taking a few games to bed into his new surroundings especially given the weight of his chosen shirt number, but Keita took to Anfield like a fish to water, gliding across the turf in a thoroughly dominant midfield performance that showcased just why Klopp had waited so patiently to sign him.
With quick vision and incisive ball movement, he switched the ball out wide to Andrew Robertson. From there, any Liverpool fan would be able to tell you the end of the tale; Robbo’s perfectly weighted cross would carve through the defence allowing Salah to swoop in at the far post. 1-0 and dominant for Klopp.
Aside from a few frustrating passages of play in which Liverpool were culpable of not taking their chances, the home side kept their feet firmly on the gas with Sadio Mané next to bag an opening day goal. The Senegal international has been many people’s tip for club’s player of the season this time out having shone in 2017/18 alongside Salah and Firmino. The proof is in the pudding as they say and this performance offered little reason as to why Mané can’t achieve his best goalscoring tally for Liverpool to date, beating Fabianski either side of half-time to ensure the three points were routinely won.
A late cameo from Daniel Sturridge saw Klopp pull of the substitution of the season thus far as the Englishman struck home with his first touch to put Liverpool in prime position at the top of the Premier League table.
Liverpool will undoubtedly face harder challenges as the season wears on but this was the perfect start to a campaign in which many are tipping them to finish top dog ahead of Manchester City. Alisson untroubled and untested, Keita classy and composed, Shaqiri brimming with smile and Sturridge back in the goals, there’ll be plenty of optimism on Merseyside tonight.