Jurgen Klopp had mentioned Barcelona the day before and, if Liverpool needed few reminders of one of their greatest displays, they ended up supplying a similar scoreline. Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate after Anfield’s previous continental clash. They crammed seven goals into a single match against Salzburg, prevailing again in nervy fashion. Sometimes the excitement is unwanted.
And yet it had unwanted echoes of another memorable European night. This time it was not Liverpool mounting the comeback. Until Mohamed Salah scored his second and his team’s fourth, this was the inverse Istanbul. Liverpool had taken a 3-0 lead and lost it. Eventually they prevailed. Defeat in Naples has now been balanced out by their first win of Group E, but in chaotic fashion. Liverpool were fantastic at times, flawed at others. Salzburg, who have nine goals in two Champions League games, promise enormous entertainment and emerged with reputation enhanced.
“If there is anyone in the world who knows the way they play, it is me,” Klopp had said on Tuesday. If he was not surprised, he ought to have been shocked. He holds Salzburg in high esteem and, if his judgement was justified, his team struggled as Salzburg mounted a terrific response.
Minus Erling Haaland, only deemed fit enough to start on the bench, Hee-Chan Hwang compensated with a fine finish of his own, turning past Virgil van Dijk and firing beyond Adrian. After the goalkeeper almost gifted Patson Daku a second, Takumi Minamino volleyed in Hwang’s cross. They should have levelled when Dominik Szoboszlai shot into the side-netting and did when Haaland scored his 18th and Salzburg’s 58th goal of the season, a tap-in from Minamino’s cross.
It was still not enough, thanks in part to a Salzburg old boy. Sadio Mane was all smiles before kick-off, hugging the visiting backroom staff. He was grinning when he scored after eight minutes; so were Liverpool when Mane helped put them three up in 35.
He is the scorer of 45 goals for Salzburg and, now, one against them. It was a trademark Liverpool strike, Mane trading passes with Roberto Firmino, sprinting into space and angling a shot past Cican Stankovic. Rasmus Kristensen, the visitors’ luckless right-back, looked petrified at the sight of him.
Liverpool’s second came from a combination of their full-backs. Andy Robertson started the move in his own half, driving diagonally infield on a dribble. Five passes later, he reached the edge of the six-yard box to convert Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
Their third goal that involved each of the front three: Mane’s cross, Firmino’s header that Stankovic parried, before Salah slotted in the rebound. So far, so good.
Back came Salzburg with an energy to suggest they had been consuming their sponsor’s beverages. Liverpool conjured a decider when Salah latched on to Firmino’s flick-on to rifle in the decider. Involved in three goals, the Brazilian illustrated his importance even while scoring none but Liverpool, who had seemed set for a procession, instead got a warning.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies