A dominant second-half performance sees Liverpool win Group E and progress to the round of 16 as group winners. Two quickfire goals from Naby Keita and Mo Salah ensured a relatively stress-free night in Salzburg.
Salzburg started the game off faster, testing Virgil van Dijk with a couple of through balls. The Dutchman responded in his typical, confident fashion but Liverpool were rather slow to get going in comparison to the hosts.
A poor kick from Allison led to the first shot on target of the game but the shot that came from Enock Mwepu didn’t trouble the Brazilian stopper. No bother.
Mo Salah had a glorious chance to put the Reds ahead moments after. A long ball from Lovren found Salah inside the box but the Egyptian could only fire his shot straight at Stankovic in the Salzburg goal.
A good piece of play inside the Liverpool box forced Alisson into a double save, first from Hwang then Minamino. A couple of top saves from the Liverpool number 1.
Straight away, Sadio Mane should’ve done better to test Stankovic on his return to his former club. Mane couldn’t hit the target from the edge of the box. A frantic start to the game with all of this happening within the first 10 minutes.
The game then died down for 10 minutes until Liverpool had 3 shots in a matter of seconds. Firstly, Sadio Mane was denied by Stankovic, Naby Keita had his shot blocked and Trent couldn’t find the target from a tight angle. This was the first time we had properly sustained an attack in the game.
Salzburg were having joy on the counter thought and could well have gone in front if Hwang’s scuffed shot had found Haaland but Alisson was there to snuff out the danger just a minute later.
The 19-year-old then had a decent chance on his left foot but, again, Alisson was there to deny him. The Austrians were having a decent number of chances as we approached the 25-minute mark.
Salah had the best chance of the game on 28 minutes after being played through by Keita. Uncharacteristically, Mo missed the target by a decent margin, it’s amazing the game was goalless at this point. He then had a free kick in a great position 5 minutes later but duly blazed it over the bar. Not Mo’s best 35 minutes in a Liverpool shirt.
Naby Keita had a chance to break the deadlock seconds before half time but was denied by a good save from Stankovic. Astonishingly, we headed into the break level knowing we’d definitely need a win to top the group as Napoli were 3-0 to the good against Genk.
The second half started as the second ended as Mo Salah missed another chance to put Liverpool ahead from 6-yards out, he may have been marginally offside but he usually gobbles them chances up.
Salah’s touch then let him down as he allowed Stankovic to deny him from rounding the Salzburg keeper, then, moments later, Eric Haaland had Salzburg’s best chance of the game but the starlet couldn’t hit the target from 12 yards out.
Dejan Lovren was then forced off with an injury and was replaced by Joe Gomez on the 53rd minute. Perhaps a reoccurrence of the injury which forced him off at the weekend.
Finally, Liverpool broke the deadlock on the 57th minute. A trademark switch from Trent to Robertson opened up the space. Robbo played in Sadio who burst past his man. He chipped it across goal allowing Naby Keita to head into an empty net. His second goal in 2 games
The Reds doubled their lead literally seconds later. A long ball forward from Henderson forced a mistake from Onguene. Salah somehow converted his hardest chance of the game from a seemingly impossible angle, quite brilliant from the Egyptian. 100 seconds between the two goals.
An audacious free-kick from Trent nearly made it 3 on 66 minutes. He totally outfoxed the goalkeeper but the ball brushed the side netting. The camera angle made it look like a different outcome, though.
Stankovic made a few more decent stops from Salah, Mane and Firmino but the score remained 2-0 to the Reds. Second consecutive clean sheet. Top of the group. Job Done.
The team, as a whole, deserves praise for the way they managed the game, not allowing Salzburg to have a sniff after the 2nd goal. Special mention to Jordan Henderson though. The captain was quality, again, in the midfield as was Naby Keita. We may have finally seen the arrival of the Guinean.
The draw for the Round of 16 is Monday. Who do I want? Real Madrid, we owe them for Kiev. First though, Watford at home on Saturday in an attempt to extend the lead at the top of the Premier League tree.