Liverpool beat Huddersfield Town 3-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium to assert their firm grip on the fourth spot in the Barclays Premier League table. This victory also allowed Jurgen Klopp’s men to regain some of the lost confidence from last week. It was a comfortable in many sense for the Reds as the Terriers didn’t provide much of a threat going forward. Let us analyse the game and take a look at the goals scored with close attention.
The game began with a familiar and expected pattern of the away side dominating possession. David Wagner’s men, on the other hand, were quite content to put ten players behind the ball. Their 5-3-2 formation was specially deployed for this game keeping in mind how narrow the front three of Liverpool are. This made it very difficult for the Reds to make penetration in between the lines or through the last line. They passed and passed with hope that the home side will leave a hole in the line.
The one thing differently done from Liverpool which allowed them to be a little more penetrative than they were against Swansea was to allow wide midfielders to give width. This allowed likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to play very close to Roberto Firmino. Joe Gomez from right back never really went forward, enabling Emre Can to play either on the right wing at times or tuck in with Salah. On the left, Robertson was a keen runner throughout the game, making it easier for Milner to find space on the underlap (as shown in the image).
The other thing was the amount of second balls won by the midfield which in turn never allowed Huddersfield defence to take a breather. Maybe, Wagner got it wrong by playing 5 at the back and leaving midfield with just 3 players. Those 3 were ultimately very deep and were easily dominated by the narrow front line and midfield of Liverpool. The key was Milner and Can helping Henderson in every recovery of the second ball whenever the likes of Mooy, Billing tried to play their way out, since going long was always an easy pick for Liverpool defence, such was the deep shape they were in.
Playing against a back three (with wing-backs) would always mean the wide forwards have to make an out-to-in run from the diagonal ball to go behind. Mane tried doing that two to three times in the game, well found by Can on two occasions. The Senegalese though couldn’t apply the finish to give us an illustration of how to perfectly attack the space behind a deep back line.
Now, let us analyse the three goals scored in Yorkshire, all of them put in by the away side.
The first goal was a result of Liverpool starting to look dangerous and switching the play out wide with more pace. The cross from Robertson would never really trouble the three centre-backs of Huddersfield but the key was second balls. Once the ball was cleared by Zanka, Billing was slow to react and close down Can, the German as a result got the strike which deflected of the Huddersfield player and went in. A result of a greater persistence from Klopp’s men.
The second goal was a body blow for Huddersfield as it arrived at the stroke of half-time. Some good passing and a clever movement out wide from Firmino found him in space with the ball. Once he went on the line to try and deliver the cutback, Huddersfield crowded the six-yard area leaving Brazilian with virtually no one to pick. But, “Bobby” Firmino as they say, found a smallest of margins near post to creep the ball in. He had no right to score from that angle.
The third goal arrived after Liverpool literally tired Huddersfield down with constant possession and movements to penetrate. A deflected ball found Can in the box with Billing bringing him down from the wrong side. A penalty given and dispatched clinically by Salah. A goal much deserved after an over-whelming majority of domination the Reds had over the Terriers in the second half as well.
So, Liverpool responded in a way they had to after two gut-wrenching losses at Swansea and against West Brom. It was a much controlled performance with enough attention to stop any kind of counter-attacks from the opposition. They are now level on points with Chelsea having played a game more. With Tottenham and Manchester United due to play, either result with enhance Liverpool’s stance in the table, ideally a draw would mean a stable place in the 4th spot for the Reds.