Liverpool’s title defense started out in Jekyll-and-Hyde fashion as the Egyptian King oozed class, Big Virg created goals at both ends of the pitch, and numerous Reds were off the mark. Three points is three points and all that, but there are a lot of performances today that will be giving Klopp fits for days.
Alisson – 6
Really wasn’t at fault for any of the goals. Maybe could have gotten a piece of Leeds’ opening goal, but that’s being a bit picky. He did really well to snuff out a Bamford chance in the first half with terrific positioning. He also got across the goal well to make sure Kalvin Phillips’s 2nd half free kick didn’t put Leeds into the lead.
Andy Robertson – 6
Leeds clearly targeted the right side of Liverpool’s defense, so Robbo didn’t have nearly as much to do as his counterpart across the pitch. A mistimed run in the first half led to Mané’s goal being ruled out for offsides, but frankly the goal never would have happened in the first place if the Leeds keeper, Illan Meslier, had his head on straight. Otherwise, a run-of-the-mill Robbo shift, but his increased involvement on set pieces should be something to monitor going forward.
Virgil Van Dijk – 7
Liverpool’s rock in central defense summarized beautifully Liverpool’s outing: equal parts sublime and frustrating. After Leeds leveled the match at 1-1, VVD displayed his growing prowess on corners to thunder home a header so powerful that it knocked Meslier back into his own net. Yet, Virgil decided to top his gaffe a couple months back vs. Arsenal by shanking an attempted clearance so badly that even Patrick Bamford couldn’t miss putting it into the back of the net. Still, while Liverpool’s defense looked like it was still on the title celebration beers, Van Dijk bailed out the Reds time and again at the back.
Joe Gomez – 3
Honestly, even a 3 might be too kind to Joe Gomez today. Constantly out of position and lost in the wilderness, Joe’s wayward performance gifted numerous openings for Leeds to exploit. While Harrison did well to skin TAA in the lead up to the first Leeds goal, a more composed moment from Joe could have easily ended the danger. Instead, Gomez went recklessly flying in and was easily sidestepped to create the space for the opener. The solid and composed Gomez from before the restart last season was nowhere to be found, but the lackluster Gomez from the end of the season certainly was. Frankly, Gomez needs to be benched in favor of Matip so he can sort things out. If he plays like this vs. Chelsea and Arsenal, it could be raining goals for the Londoners.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 3
A match hardly befitting of the reigning PL Young Player of the Season and Best Right Back In The World™. Jack Harrison did the American football development system proud by treating TAA like a pylon to get into a shooting position. Shortly thereafter, Trent set up another Leeds rampaging counter by giving the ball away cheaply in the final third. Trent improved slightly as the match went on, but only in the way that putting duct tape over a hole in a boat is slightly better than just letting the water rush in. Perhaps a return to Stamford Bridge – the scene of one of his best moments last year – will help kickstart his season.
Gini Wijnaldum – 5
With rumors of his potential departure to Barcelona flying around, the LFC Twitterverse has had quite a time lately arguing over whether he’s overrated or central to everything good about Liverpool. As with most things, the answer is in between as evidenced by his display today. The Gini Ghost was present for most of the match except for late into the first half when he started to get on the ball, make timely interceptions, and keep the ball pushing forward. But on a day when Liverpool’s midfield had less control than a car without a steering wheel, Gini likely should have been taken off instead of Naby.
Jordan Henderson – 5
It’s really not his fault that he was thrust into a bigger role than he should have been based on his lack of match fitness. He was a surprising start over Fabinho, and his lack of legs left the backline exposed repeatedly. Jurgen also tried to jumpstart the midfield by taking Naby off instead of Hendo first, but the Liverpool captain never truly looked capable of making the impact that galvanized the Reds on so many occasions last season. The minutes for Hendo may help him in the next couple matches, but it was a gamble by Klopp that absolutely didn’t pay off vs. Leeds.
Naby Keïta – 6
Harshly taken off when he had shown the most of any Liverpool midfielder on the day. Yet, Naby certainly didn’t help Liverpool’s lack of control down the right, and Jurgen probably felt he needed to shore things up there and get Hendo moving forward a bit. Now fully fit, Naby needs to be put in positions to succeed and given the chance to make his mark on this midfield. Two massive matches in the next couple weeks will hopefully be the perfect opportunity to cement his name on the teamsheet.
Sadio Mané – 5
An uncharacteristically lackluster performance for the Senegalese wonder. When Liverpool have needed inspiration over the last couple seasons, often Mané has been there to score at the most critical times. Yet he was mostly contained by the impressive Luke Ayling, and when he had a golden breakaway chance with Salah late into the second half, his shot went flying harmlessly over the bar. He should have passed back to Salah to set up a hat trick for Mo, so perhaps now they are even for the Burnley match last season.
Bobby Firmino – 6
Helped put a massive amount of early pressure on Leeds to open the match that caused the shakiness that led to the early penalty. However, he drifted out of the match for large swathes until well into the 2nd half when he started to win the ball again and link up play. Sadly, Firmino’s lack of confidence in front of goal reared its ugly head again when he wasted a gilt-edged chance to bag the winner.
Mo Salah – 10
New season, new haircut, old Egyptian King. This was the Mo Salah that took the league by storm in 2017-18. He looked lively and up for it straight from the opening whistle, and his strength and body control helped shield the ball so he could take the shot that won the handball off of Leeds in the box. He also displayed his growing coolness at the spot by converting both penalties on the day. But his real moment of brilliance was an absolute rocket into the top right corner after a beautifully controlled deflection that gave Meslier absolutely no chance. Without Mo, Liverpool likely wouldn’t have even earned a draw today, but if Salah can keep this up, another Golden Boot and Player of the Season Award will be waiting for him in May.
Fabinho (58′) – 7
Should have started instead of Hendo, but he made his mark by getting involved on the defensive end and winning the penalty that gave Liverpool the win. Perhaps he had a knock or there was something else Klopp saw that he didn’t like from Fab leading up to this match, but his absence for the first 58 minutes today underscores how vital he is to Liverpool’s success. If he’s not in the starting XI for Chelsea and Arsenal, hold onto your butts.
Curtis Jones (66′) – 5
His biggest involvement was getting called for a foul in the box on the corner that could and should have led to Van Dijk’s second goal even if it might have been a bit harsh. Jones was an interesting sub, and his introduction when Liverpool were chasing a goal shows he could have a major involvement this season. He didn’t create any massive chances, but there was enough there to entice going forward.
Matip (89′) – N/A
Brought on late for TAA to shore up the defense and protect the lead, he didn’t have much to do over the final minutes. Still, if he’s healthy and ready to go next Sunday, then he should be given the chance to partner VVD and bring some stability back into the team.