There will be attempts to dampen this initially torturous, eventually comfortable victory. Leipzig, it will be said, are the ideal opponents for this one-dimensional iteration of Liverpool. The depleted Reds’ prospects of going all the way in the competition will be written off.
However valid those reservations, this win offers supporters a precious feeling of contentment for, at the very least, four days. It is serene respite from the unrelenting domestic misery.
Liverpool kept the tie alive as long as they dared – racking up, I would guess, about as much xG as they have across their Anfield barren run – before Mohamed Salah executed RB Leipzig at the end of a fluid back-to-front move.
The full-throttle side who are second in Germany, a mere two points off reigning European champions Bayern Munich, were dispatched by four goals to nil on aggregate. Liverpool neutralised them in seriously impressive fashion.
“Liverpool are back,” was Gary Lineker’s reaction. Gary should hold his horses. But this tie was doubtless a reminder of our capabilities.
Alisson Becker – 8/10
Made a vital, top-drawer save to deny Dani Olmo with 10 minutes gone. Once again proving his worth in defining moments, and inevitably back to his best after the calamities against City and Leicester.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7/10
Declined an inviting shooting chance after coming in off the right, a decision symptomatic of the loss of confidence throughout the team. Would have had an assist from the subsequent corner but for a fine reflex save from Peter Gulacsi.
Was described in the build-up as ‘too offensive’ by Leipzig wing-back Angelino, but responded by defending diligently.
Nathaniel Phillips – 9/10
Outstanding Champions League debut. Liverpool’s bandaged hero and their man of the match.
Cleared every ball that came his way to safety, once again demonstrating an invaluable grasp of the defensive fundamentals.
Been somewhat disrespected up to this point, his future seemingly pre-determined. A summer move to the Championship or to Premier League strugglers is far from inevitable. He can be an important part of this squad going forward.
Ozan Kabak – 7/10
Taken criticism and been written off in some quarters despite pretty much conforming to expectations thus far. Solid display here, and a positive step as he tries to secure the permanent move.
Andrew Robertson – 7/10
Not having his desired impact going forward at the moment, but didn’t put a foot wrong defensively here, and that was what mattered most on the night.
Fabinho – 8/10
To quote Raymond Holt, ‘VIN-DI-CA-TION’ for those demanding he return to his natural position. Excellent defensive midfield performance – four interceptions, three tackles and two clearances.
Klopp will have seen enough to maintain this structure going forward.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 7/10
Not at his best in the first half, but improved in the second and was central to Liverpool’s success in controlling the game.
Thiago – 8/10
Went up a level with an accomplished no.6 sitting behind him, as many predicted. Picked out a few vintage passes, not least the karate-kick ball over the top to Salah, who should have finished.
Defensive side of his game quietly improving, with rashness reined in. Won seven of his 10 ground duels here.
Shied away from a shot when it opened up in the early stages, then tried an overhead kick. Alrighty then.
Mohamed Salah – 7/10
Should have killed the tie long before he did. Shot into the midriff of Gulacsi after Thiago’s launch, then remarkably skied a rebound early in the second half (VAR might well have overruled the linesman’s flag).
But he shrugged off those mishaps, stepped inside Upamecano and unerringly found the bottom right corner on 70′, with Gulacsi helpless this time.
25 goals in all competitions, more than any of his Premier League rivals.
Diogo Jota – 7/10
The leading culprit in Liverpool’s wastefulness. Produced what was, in all honesty, a contender for our miss of the season so far (someone’s keeping track). But his final contribution before being withdrawn was an assist for Salah, nudging his rating from a 6 to a 7.
The goals will soon return. This is Liverpool’s first-choice front three until season’s end, surely.
Sadio Mane – 7/10
I suggest… half-volley, you have selected… header.
Questionable decision-making and awkward execution persist, but Mane followed-up his first-leg strike with a close-range finish after timing his run.
Desperately needs to follow this up in the Premier League.
Divock Origi – Natural-born winger out of 10
Credit where it’s due, a quality contribution off the bench after the dread-inducing sight of him preparing to come on.