Five-Star Reds Give Klopp Perfect Response
This was the perfect way to respond to the astounding news from Friday, that the reds esteemed manager, Jürgen Klopp, was to step down at the end of the season. My immediate thoughts were that the bombshell would push each and every game (until the campaign is over), into a cauldron of song and intimidation. That sense was confirmed before kick-off, as Anfield used its full voice to show their appreciation to their legendary boss.
Below is how the team lined up, with match details following.
The Starting XI:
GK – Alisson Becker (C), RB – Conor Bradley, RCB – Ibrahima Konaté, LCB – Jarell Quansah, LB – Joe Gomez, RCM – Ryan Gravenberch, CDM – James McConnell, LCM – Curtis Jones, RW – Cody Gakpo, CF – Diogo Jota, LF – Darwin Núñez
Andy Robertson – Joe Gomez (55 mins)
Virgil van Dijk – Ibrahima Konaté (55 mins)
Dominik Szoboszlai – Curtis Jones (55 mins)
Trent Alexander Arnold – Darwin Núñez (66 mins)
Luis Díaz – James McConnell (79 mins)
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) January 28, 2024
Liverpool- Curtis Jones (16), Darwin Nunez (28), Diogo Jota (53), Virgil Van Dijk (63), Ryan Gravenberch (90+5)
Norwich City- Ben Gibson (22), Borja Sainz (69)
Possession- Liverpool 73% – 27% Norwich
Total Shots- Liverpool 22 – 6 Norwich
Goalkeeper Saves- Liverpool 3 – 5 Norwich
Corner Kicks- Liverpool 13 – 2 Norwich
Dominant First Half
The opening period of this game felt exactly like a cup tie should, as the reds took the game to their Championship opponents, with a desire to inflict damage. The dominance and quality of the home side was apparent immediately, even with so many senior players missing or on the bench.
The raft of young academy players that have filtered onto the scene in the latter parts of Jürgen Klopp’s reign is quite astounding, given the level of talent that each is currently producing for the first team. It would be a pair of those graduates which combined to open the FA Cup 4th rounds scoring, as Curtis Jones ghosted towards the canaries back post, before heading home a delightfully angled ball (into the box) by 19-year-old, James McConnell.
The more illustrious side were off and running.
That early lead should have seen the upcoming EFL Cup finalists motor away from their Norfolk based opponents, however, a defensive mistake (from a corner) just six minutes later brought the scores level. Ryan Gravenberch was unsuccessful in protecting that near post-delivery, which enabled Ben Gibson to head emphatically across the reds Brazilian stopper.
Luckily for the vibrant and powerful home support, it would only be another six minutes before another academy graduate assisted a teammate. After winning the ball on the half way line and moving past a pair of visiting players, Conor Bradley calmly delivered a pinpoint ball into the path of the advancing Darwin Núñez. After a good touch and crisp strike into the bottom corner, Liverpool were ahead once more and the score line represented the superiority of the reds.
For the remainder of that entertaining first half, control was very much in hands of the Merseyside club, as they entered the half time break with a healthy 3-1 lead. That initial 45 minutes was a continual success for the likes of Conor Bradley and Joe Gomez, who marshalled their flanks diligently.
The two centre backs were dominant, James McConnell and Curtis Jones were workhorses, whereas Darwin and Diogo were vibrant and a step above. Only Cody Gakpo and Ryan Gravenberch failed to truly deliver, as they continue to develop understanding in their respective roles.
Second Half: Maintaining Control
On resumption of the second half, no changes were made by either Klopp or his good friend and former teammate / colleague, David Wagner. The ongoing dominance of the home side continued until a hopeful long ball from Curtis Jones was misjudged and headed into the path of the lethal Diogo Jota, who did not hesitate with his touch, movement, and venomous strike across the keeper.
As soon as the scores moved to 4-1, the substitutions began, thereby ending the match for Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konaté, and Curtis Jones. In their place, the brilliance of Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson (first appearance after injury), and Dominik Szoboszlai, arrived to allow some rest to those departing.
It would be the incoming skipper, Virgil, who would score the next goal. A well taken corner was delivered towards the penalty spot by the Hungarian captain, allowing the unmarked giant Dutchman to head home a bullet effort.
As Trent Alexander Arnold entered the field (after his own injury absence) for the withdrawn Darwin, it was only shortly thereafter that the travelling fans had something to cheer. After a lively introduction, Borja Sainz picked up the ball and drove at the Anfield goal, before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner. Alisson Becker was once again beaten, yet as with the first goal conceded, there was no fault at the former Roma’s keepers’ feet.
One final change allowed Luis Díaz to come in for James McConnell. The Colombian flyer was able to showboat with a wonderful first touch, before teasing and finding Conor Bradley at the far post. The young Northern Irishman was able to drive the ball back across the post, where Ryan Gravenberch was waiting to head into the net.
The game ended shortly thereafter, with Liverpool moving into the next round of the FA Cup, courtesy of this seven-goal thriller.
Reflections on the Match:
This was a much-needed boost to the moral of the fanbase, as football can still aid in even the saddest of times. The FA Cup is being used to facilitate younger players and those in need of minutes, all without disrespecting the integrity of the historic competition. The final score was reflective of the game, as the winners of Watford and Southampton will face the reds in the 5th round.
The season will continue, with Liverpool still prominent in the league and every tournament with which they began. Though the boss is set to leave at the close of the campaign, he may have just delivered the news that carries v2.0 to unbelievable success.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) January 28, 2024
Liverpool 4 – 2 Norwich