Huddersfield 0-1 Liverpool: Who Was Man of the Match?
Liverpool have equalled their best-ever start to a Premier League season but the increasingly frustrating wait for the Reds to come alive goes on.
Mohamed Salah’s tidy finish on 24 minutes should have set the visitors on their way to a comfortable victory, but fans would spend the final portion of the game longing for the whistle as a spirited Huddersfield pushed for an equaliser and a series of counter-attacking opportunities fizzled out.
Shortly after chief rivals Manchester City had laid down another marker by thrashing Burnley 5-0, Liverpool could only scrape past their relegation-threatened opponents, underlining the need for a swift improvement.
Jurgen Klopp was livid at times on the touchline, his fury less the result of individual errors than his team’s general sloppiness.
There were, though, a handful of positives.
Liverpool’s defence secured its sixth clean sheet of the season without too much trouble. Alisson only had one save to make, but he did hold the ball well from Depoitre’s header. Whilst his distribution was not quite as accurate as usual, the Brazilian continues to look like a significant presence between the sticks.
Virgil van Dijk strengthened his case for the ‘best defender in the league’ label with another commanding performance which included 7 successful aerial duels. He did clumsily combine with Dejan Lovren to hand Steve Mounie a good opportunity, but it was his awkward body shape rather than his poor judgement which was to blame.
Lovren himself was OK, producing some important tackles and clearances and passing with precision, but it was a performance lacking kind of composure Joe Gomez has exuded in his preferred central role.
Gomez may be comfortable in the heart of the defence but he coped well at right-back once again, the highlight of his evening a good ball to Salah in the lead-up to the opener.
The ever-present Andrew Robertson was pretty solid defensively and suitably ambitious going forward.
The midfield didn’t quite manage to hit its early-season heights, with Huddersfield able to enjoy much more possession than many would have expected.
Nonetheless, James Milner once again showcased great enthusiasm for the central battle, Adam Lallana looked sharp before understandably tiring and second-half substitute Georginio Wijnaldum passed the ball very well indeed.
Fabinho, meanwhile, was noticeably more confident and comfortable in his 25 minutes on the pitch.
That will give Klopp plenty of encouragement, as will the end of Salah’s mini-goal drought. It was an accomplished finish from the Egyptian, who went close to grabbing another in the second half when an effort bounced just past Jonas Lossl’s post.
However, whilst he did net the winning goal, Salah gave the ball away far too often to earn man of the match. He was dispossessed on four occasions, partially due to some poor first touches, and he misplaced just shy of 25% of his passes.
The goals are what matter most, but Salah’s all-around game must improve if Liverpool are to increase their output.
Daniel Sturridge’s performance was full of athleticism and endeavour, both of which were largely absent last season, but he failed to provide the golden touch when chances did present themselves and he rather tailed off into anonymity in the second period.
But fellow attacker Xherdan Shaqiri outshone his team-mates and thus earns the coveted David Comerford Man of the Match award for the second time this season.
Every time Shaqiri has been given a chance to impress Klopp, ever since his first outing in pre-season, he has grabbed it eagerly.
It is no surprise that the 27-year-old, a notorious firecracker, is always lively, but it is perhaps a surprise just how effective he’s been.
The Swiss international has only played around 120 minutes for his new club in the Premier League, but in that time he has managed to lay-on three goals.
His latest assist was excellent – a perfectly weighted ball into a grateful Salah’s path after he had picked up possession in midfield and glided into the danger zone.
Thereafter, Shaqiri always looked capable of making something happen and had Roberto Firmino slipped him through when Huddersfield were exposed in the closing stages, he might well have got a goal himself.
Concerns over his work-rate are already distant memory but this was another committed performance, complete with one tackle and two clearances.
Shaqiri has starred on each of his three starts and looks set to figure heavily in Klopp’s first-team plans over the course of the season rather than merely playing a support role for the attack.
In the short-term, he has staked his claim to a starting role at home to Cardiff next weekend, when his creativity, a rare trait among this crop of Liverpool midfielders, could be crucial in breaking through what will inevitably be a deep-lying defensive line.
In truth, the Reds looked in need of a spark prior to the international break and Shaqiri provided it at the John Smith’s Stadium. A well-below-par Liverpool might not have won this game without him.
As £40million signing Fabinho and £53million addition Naby Keita continue to find their feet, the £13million snip Shaqiri has hit the ground running.