Liverpool clinched top spot in Group E of the UEFA Champions League, beating Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 at the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday.
Red Bull Salzburg had Liverpool on the ropes for much of the first half, although the Reds did have a fair share of chances going their way as well. Despite the abundance of action, though, the two teams went into half-time with the score still reading 0-0. The deadlock would finally be broken 12 minutes into the second period.
Shortly after Mohamed Salah had spurned a chance for the umpteenth time, two former Red Bull Salzburg superstars combined to hand Liverpool the lead, as Naby Keita headed the ball into an empty net, making no mistake in converting Sadio Mane’s cross after some brilliant work by the Senegalese winger.
Moments later, Salah rounded the win off by producing a superb finish from a narrow angle. That goal proved to be enough as a 2-0 win ensured Liverpool topped Group E, while Salzburg drop down to the Europa League. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Alisson Becker: 8/10
Ahead of the game, it was expected that Red Bull Salzburg would prove to be one of the bigger tests this season for Alisson. The Brazilian had a busy evening at the Red Bull Arena, although each of his seven saves were rather straightforward. Nevertheless, Alisson stood like a rock between the Salzburg players and goal in what was a largely unblemished display.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7/10
Yet another game wherein Alexander-Arnold’s attacking prowess was on full display. Played a huge role in the build-up to Liverpool’s first goal, as it was his crossfield pass that eventually led to Keita scoring the opener. Not at his best in the defensive phase, Alexander-Arnold was in trouble at the back at times, but improved as the minutes wore on.
Dejan Lovren: 6/10
Passed fit to start against Red Bull Salzburg, Lovren was under the cosh in a frenetic first half, as Erling Haaland and Hwang Hee-chan often had him backpedaling. The Croat’s night went from bad to worse, when early into the second half, he hobbled off with another injury. A worrying picture with Joel Matip already sidelined.
Virgil van Dijk: 8/10
Another solid showing by van Dijk, who was the polar opposite of the defender who was under the pump in the reverse fixture at Anfield. This time around, van Dijk was much more composed, rarely being outsmarted at the back while also winning most of his aerial duels with ease. Assured on the ball as always.
Andrew Robertson: 7/10
The complete opposite to Alexander-Arnold on the opposite flank. Robertson held his own at the back, but was much quieter going forward, with much of the danger being created by his full-back partner. Still, a no-nonsense display by the Scotsman.
Naby Keita: 9/10
Following a top class performance against Bournemouth, it was a no-brainer to give Keita another start. The former Red Bull Salzburg midfielder a bit slow off the blocks, but was unstoppable once he found his feet. Displayed his growing understanding with Mohamed Salah by creating a superb opening for the Egyptian.
Keita only continued to be highly creative for the remainder of his outing, driving Liverpool forward with elan. The Guinean then capped off a strong performance with a second goal in as many games, the easiest of finishes into an open goal. Growing in stature, slowly but surely.
Jordan Henderson: 8/10
Far too often, Henderson has been criticised for being too passive in the Champions League. But, against Salzburg, the Liverpool captain was proactive in his showing, containing Takumi Minamino and Dominik Szoboszlai in fine fashion, while setting a quick tempo to the game. Fabinho is hardly being missed due to such dominant displays by Henderson.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 7/10
Having regained full fitness, Wijnaldum unsurprisingly walked back into the Liverpool midfield. The Dutchman was typically energetic in the middle of the park, running himself into the ground to ensure Liverpool were never overpowered in the midfield. A little quiet going forward, but an impactful performance nonetheless.
Mohamed Salah: 7/10
27 – Mohamed Salah has been involved in 27 Champions League goals for Liverpool (19 goals, 8 assists) – only Lionel Messi (28) has been involved in more since the Egyptian joined the Reds. Masterful. #SALLIV #UCL pic.twitter.com/ngAkELcckq
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 10, 2019
A game that was turning out to be horrible on all accounts for Salah turned on its head later on. The Egyptian was perhaps, the most frustrating figure for the Reds and their fans as he missed chance after glorious chance.
But, just when it looked like he was going to end the match without a goal, he produced a moment of genius, producing an unbelievable finish from an acute angle. Will now look to become more clinical in front of goal.
Roberto Firmino: 7/10
A performance that might go under the radar, but that is how it is with Firmino. With Salzburg taking the game to their visitors, Firmino was willing to drop deep to help the midfielders out, never letting the hosts run away from the game. Much more involved in the final third, Firmino will now be aching to get back to scoring ways.
Sadio Mane: 8/10
Another ex-Red Bull Salzburg player who was spectacular on Tuesday. Lively on the left flank from the get-go, Mane was one of many players who set Salah up for his chances in the game.
Grabbed a well deserved assist early in the second half, taking the goalkeeper out of the game before serving the ball on a platter for Keita. Just cannot keep him out of the game.
Joe Gomez: 6/10
Forced onto the field due to Lovren’s injury, Gomez enjoyed a quiet, yet solid outing as Liverpool started controlling the game better following the goals by Keita and Salah.
James Milner: N/A
On for the final 15 minutes, Milner ensured there were no unnecessary errors that brought Salzburg back into the game late on.
Divock Origi: N/A
A late substitution, Origi helped see the game out.