Luis Diaz illuminates Anfield to give Liverpool a taste of what’s to come

A standout showing on his full league debut to emphasise how the Reds have hit the target in the transfer market once more

Karl Matchett
Thursday 10 February 2022 21:59
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Straight into the team, straight into the spotlight. Straight to business and showing why Liverpool had signed him.

There might have been a bit of circumsance about Luis Diaz lining up for his full debut for the club, with Sadio Mane not yet considered for selection after a late return from the Africa Cup of Nations and Mohamed Salah only sub after four straight games going to extra time, but it was still a confidence-boosting call for the Colombian.

And, as he showed, it must have actually been a fairly routine choice for Jurgen Klopp in the end, as he played a big part in the Reds’ 2-0 win over Leicester.

Diaz didn’t produce anything otherworldly in terms of Salah-esque solo wondergoals, but on the other hand, even being named in the 11 at this stage is a little out of the ordinary.

With the notable exceptions of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, very few have walked into the line-up within weeks of signing for the Reds under Jurgen Klopp, at least since the end of his second full season or so when his team had begun to take shape.

Andy Robertson needed nearly half a year to get the shirt off Alberto Moreno; Fabinho took several months to adapt to the requirements of a single-pivot midfield and the positional play required in a team pressing high. Thiago was in and out last season, even around his injuries, while even Diogo Jota, though it might be forgotten now among all his goals - another two to seal the win here at Anfield - took until late November last year to collect a second consecutive Premier League start.

So even being on the pitch at this point is something of a notable impact, but it was after the whistle went that Diaz started to introduce supporters to the talents he showed so often at Porto and will do so now in the Premier League.

First and foremost, his link-up with Andy Robertson was exceptional - they appeared very much on the same wavelength from early on, combining neatly with return balls, overlaps at the right times and as counter-attacking outlets.

One or two moments almost earned him a sight of goal - one narrow strike off-target, one patented cut-in-and-drive with the right foot was deflected over - but more than that was how Diaz looked a threat everywhere.

He might have been in on the left of the front three, the Mane role, but he appeared through the centre and even right wing with frequency in the first half, helping create overloads and winning back the ball in dangerous areas more than once.

Diaz was, for an hour, the main attraction.

The double introduction of Salah and Harvey Elliott might have lessened the excitement of expectation of what the No23 might do next - the Egyptian hit the bar and had a one-on-one saved within 15 minutes of his entrance - but instead it only served to allow a little more space for Diaz to operate in.

A 70th minute sprint-back and tackle drew admiring applause from the Kop, before a rasping hit forced Kasper Schmeichel into action.

Then, almost the moment: Salah and Diaz linking up in the box, only desperation and fortune keeping the ball out of the net.

Ultimately, there was no goal and this time he was not even robbed of an assist as he was at the weekend - but he was heavily involved in Jota’s killer second, twice finding space and eventually the pass to Joel Matip, who teed up the clinical Portuguese.

On 89 minutes, just after a crunching slide-tackle to win back possession, Diaz departed.

Subbed for Takumi Minamino, he was roundly applauded by the Kop.

They liked what they saw.

There’s plenty more to come, and it doesn’t take much of a leap of faith to suggest the Colombian could quickly become a massive crowd favourite - whenever his next chances come, of course.

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