Mohamed Salah strike settles nervy Liverpool win over Huddersfield
Jamie Jackson at the John Smith's Stadium
Sat 20 Oct 2018 19.40 BST
With this victory Liverpool equalled the 23 points from nine games of 10 seasons ago that is their best in the Premier League era. The good news for Jürgen Klopp’s side is that the cliche of grinding out wins can be evoked because they struggled throughout. While the three goals they have conceded is also a record for this stage of a campaign, the manager did admit concern.
“The last pass wasn’t good. How can I explain that?” Klopp said. “I need to look back at the game. The players weren’t great with their last pass. The performance wasn’t 100%, it looked like we could have scored in six or seven situations.”
The Huddersfield manager, David Wagner, made one change, replacing Rajiv van La Parra with Florent Hadergjonaj as he searched for a first Premier League win. Klopp made three adjustments: Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri replaced Sadio Mané, who was injured, and Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum, who were substitutes. It was Lallana’s first league start since New Year’s Day and Sturridge’s first for 11 months.
Liverpool failed to dominate and Klopp was visibly upset at his side’s lack of composure and shape. He did though have reason to smile on 25 minutes when his side scored a slick opener.
It occurred in a flash: Joe Gomez played the ball inside from the right to Shaqiri. In turn he slid it forward to Mohamed Salah along an inside channel and his neat finish rolled in off Jonas Lössl’s right post for his fourth goal of the season and his 50th in all for Liverpool.
Still Klopp remained unhappy due to the lack of press on the ball and that came close to costing Liverpool. In yards of space, Laurent Depoitre found Aaron Mooy and he switched play left. Erik Durm fashioned a cross and when Andrew Robertson cleared the ball fell to Jonathan Hogg. From 25 yards the captain beat Alisson but not his right post, the ball pinging off it and allowing Liverpool to escape.
When half-time arrived Klopp will surely have urged his team to tighten up and wake up, because Huddersfield had posed a threat throughout the opening 45 minutes. A Philip Billing free-kick that went close, a James Milner handball in the area that was not given as a penalty, and Alex Pritchard’s offside strike all served as warnings.
Wagner said: “This handball situation was a huge situation and I don’t understand why it wasn’t a penalty. That could easily decide the direction of the match. But apart from this we limited them and they’re a top-class team. We were with them and we can take this forward with us.”
Jordan Henderson complained of a tight hamstring at the break so was replaced by Wijnaldum. When the second half began Liverpool launched an attack almost instantly. Although it ended with Sturridge’s swivel and shot going too high Klopp applauded what was a rejigged formation that had Sturridge on the right with Salah, who was now the No 9.
Still there were errant passes and a lack of sharpness from Liverpool. Milner hit one ball straight out and Mooy was able to race through a central area in a Huddersfield move that ended with Depoitre heading into Alisson’s arms. Klopp’s default expression had become an agonised look towards the bench as his charges again failed to adhere to his blueprint.
The problem for Wagner’s men was a lack of composure, a shortcoming vividly highlighted by a scuffed Billing effort from outside the area. When Lallana and then Milner were replaced – the former for Fabinho on 68 minutes and the latter for Firmino on 77 – it meant none of Liverpool’s starting midfield trio would finish the game, a sign of Klopp’s disquiet.
While this was Fabinho’s Premier League bow, Firmino became the latest to baffle Klopp when he hit a pass to no one. Near the end Steve Mounié might have equalised when Virgil van Dijk failed to clear but the effort was mis-hit. Liverpool managed to cling on, but only just.
Of still having only three points Wagner said: “It’s a wonderful challenge we face and it’s exciting.”
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