Solid standards and extra class of a teenager: Liverpool win on Boxing Day

After the League Cup defeat at Manchester City, Liverpool came back with a 3-1 away win at Aston Villa. At Birmingham, the Reds initially played at their standard strength but had to endure an extremely difficult time after the break before a teenager secured victory.

Radiant men: Liverpool goalscorers Mo Salah and Virgil van Dijk (right).

IMAGO/PA images

Liverpool’s season so far has been characterized by light and shadow. The Reds said goodbye to the World Cup break in sixth place and came back with a 2-3 League Cup defeat at Manchester City. In the league, the Reds faced another tricky task when they restarted at Aston Villa, but it didn’t seem as difficult as it did outside City.

Coach Jürgen Klopp also gave second-tier players in the League Cup a chance, which explains the half-dozen changes: Alisson (goal), Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Henderson, Fabinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Kelleher (goal), Milner, Gomez, Elliott, Bajcetic and Fabio Carvalho.

It was the Villans’ first competitive game after the World Cup. New coach Unai Emery, who has won both league games since taking over, had to do without Argentina’s world champion goalkeeper Martinez and relied on Olsen in goal.

Premier League, matchday 17

It was one of four changes since their last competitive game, a 2-1 win at Brighton & Hove Albion: Young, Watkins and ex-Leverkusen Bailey replacing Ramsey with a thigh injury, and Cash and Ings (both on the bench) were the other three. .

Dream start to Liverpool

No sooner had the whistle sounded than things really got going in the venerable “Villa Park”. Watkins tested LFC keeper Alisson after just seconds, before a crucial corner kick came in the other side shortly after.

Bailey cleared first, but Alexander-Arnold revived the scene with a world-class outside pass off the instep from center circle into Robertson’s foot. He went straight for Salah – and Liverpool’s dream start was perfect (5th).

The Villans were unimpressed with the backhand, from there they pushed hard for the equalizer – and had chances too, but Watkins missed two good chances within minutes (14′, 17′).

Salah finds van Dijk

After a solid 20 minutes, the Reds had more and more access – and gained advantages on the pitch. Again and again they moved the opposing defense with quick vertical passes outwards.

Darwin (29′) and Salah (31′, 36′) tried to make it 2-0, which van Dijk eventually scored. The Dutchman was well staged on a corner by Salah and shot sharply in the six-meter skylight at the level of the left pentagon (37th).

Wild West football after the break

Picture book header: Watkins (left) scores the 1:2.

Picture book header: Watkins (left) scores the 1:2.

Emery may not have been pleased with the performance of his proteges late in the first half, unlike at the start of the second half. Villa was suddenly there, acted boldly and put the Reds under pressure. Watkins’ supposed goal after a few seconds did not count due to offside (46th), then McGinn missed miserably from five meters (48th).

It was a bit of Old West football that was on offer at this stage as Liverpool were not without luck either. So Salah was terribly annoyed when he didn’t use a half-court solo decisively (50′).

Nevertheless: Liverpool lacked compactness in the midfield, the gaps continued to widen. This was also the case in the 59th minute: a weak free ball from Alexander-Arnold landed on Douglas Luiz, who sent a good cross to Watkins from the right. This headed the 1:2 connect shot, which had become somewhat apparent.

Klopp’s changes are working

Klopp reacted by replacing Elliott and Keita with Thiago and Oxlade-Chamberlain (67th) and thus brought a little more stability to the midfield. However, Villa’s pressing remained impressive and the game remained completely open, also because Darwin missed a good counter-attack as he pushed just wide on the right (76th).

But it was another wild card that took the tension out of the game: the only 18-year-old Spaniard, Bajcetic, was there in the 81st minute when Olsen only let a sharp cross from Darwin bounce, then showed class extra when he passed the ball for the first time. past Olsen and Konsa with his right hand, then shot through Mings’ legs from a sharp angle with his left hand to make it 3-1.

While Jürgen Klopp and his men still have a home game ahead of them next Friday at home to Leicester (9 p.m.) after their second away win of the current Premier League season, Aston Villa are only New Year’s Day: the difficult trip to London is Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur (3 p.m.).

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