It was a night to savour. Even before kick off, there was a sense of something incredibly special that was surely to come. The Reds hadn’t been in a Champions League quarterfinal in 9 years and they faced, on paper, a formidable foe. The runaway league leaders Manchester City had their sights on the ultimate European prize but their pursuit was dealt a crushing blow yesterday. It is technically only half time yet, but that by no means diminishes the sheer magnitude of what was achieved by Liverpool at Anfield last night.
The blitz began early with a goal from who else but Mo Salah after typically dogged work by Roberto Firmino. This was followed by the pick of the crop when Champions League assist king James Milner poked the ball in the direction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who then fizzed a flaming arrow past Ederson from 25 yards before the keeper even had time to react. Just when City thought it couldn’t get any worse, Salah teed up the electric Sadio Mané for a headed third. Boom!
I don’t think we have seen a game more appropriate for this recurring segment than what transpired last night. Specifically though, what did we, or more importantly the team, learn from this game?
Trent Targeted No More
I honestly could have dedicated this entire article to our young right back. Trent Alexander-Arnold was brutally exposed on Saturday by Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace. His confidence unsurprisingly took what could easily have been a devastating knock. However, after the Palace match I did touch upon the fact that TAA has demonstrated on several occasions his ability to learn from his mistakes. He clearly spent time this week analyzing what he did wrong with the coaching staff and what he could do to improve. It was quite sensational a turnaround.
There have been times this season when I have seen replies to the ‘What We Learnt’ articles stating almost facetiously that “we never learn anything, same old s**t”. I’m paraphrasing a little but these throwaway comments had in a roundabout way, made an important point. After all, top class players do not hide from their mistakes, they instead embrace them and use them as fuel to learn and get better.
I don’t want to throw Alberto Moreno under the bus as he has admittedly made gradual improvements in the last year but TAA probably learnt more in 3 days about adjusting his game after mistakes than Moreno has made in 3 years. This only showcases the size of Trent’s incredible potential. He is still only scratching the surface of his immense talent.
Who would have thunk it? An all English midfield trio completely bossing a Champions League quarter final against what is considered one of the top midfield groups in world football. But that is exactly what happened yesterday. Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Jordan Henderson were out of this world. They combined their intelligent pressing with the ability to feed the danger men up top. Milner and Ox even took matters into their own hands for the second goal. We couldn’t ask for much more.
Losing the skipper to suspension is a monumental blow to this team though. When he is in this kind of form, there are few better at what Henderson does. How Jurgen Klopp and his team plan for life without Hendo in the second leg is going to play a huge part in how the outcome is ultimately determined.
We Got Salah, Ohhhh Mané Mané, and Bobby Firminoooooooo
It really is a treat to watch this trio play football. We see it almost weekly and I still don’t think we fully appreciate what we have. They all play for the good of the team, they contribute in ever so slightly but equally crucial ways, and are just outrageously dynamic. Sadio Mané in particular looked his unplayable best yesterday. City have one of the most expense defenses ever assembled and they still had no answer in the first half.
Also, we must also give a huge shout out to the second half cameo of Dom Solanke. He hasn’t had much first team football of late but put in a massive shift when we badly needed it. City were starting to get a little too comfortable without Salah on the pitch and Firmino fading after his titanic early efforts. Solanke’s ability to be that first point of pressure helped alleviate a little stress on our midfield and defense which contributed massively to the eventual clean sheet.
Atmosphere Does Play a Part
Some say there is no such thing as home field advantage…
Allez Allez Allez
That’s really all I have to say about that.
This Isn’t Over
As absolutely fantastic as this night was, this tie is far from over. Thankfully, I think nobody knows that more than Jurgen Klopp and his staff. We will need the same intensity next week to finish the job which will be that bit harder without Jordan Henderson. However, for now let’s just rightly enjoy what was one of the great European nights at Anfield.