Divock Origi’s all-round display would have done little to prevent Jurgen Klopp from spending big at Liverpool, while Leeds can take plenty of positives from the Anfield encounter.
Liverpool still need striking reinforcements
With Philippe Coutinho injured and Roberto Firmino not risked, the emphasis was on summer signing Sadio Mane and Divock Origi to steer Liverpool into the last four of the League Cup.
However, despite Mane displaying his usual array of flicks and unbelievable bursts of speed, the Senegalese flyer was largely well handled by a resolute Leeds defence. It’s safe to say he just isn’t the same without his regular partners in crime alongside him.
But Mane’s display won’t bother Klopp; he’ll know exactly what the former Southampton man gives to this Liverpool side and he can be afforded a rare off day. He’s earned that right.
More so however, Klopp would have been keeping a close watch on Origi and how he stood up when given a chance on the centre stage. Daniel Sturridge’s continued absence presents that chance and in Coutinho’s injury lay-off, a run in the side could be his for the taking….
The Belgium striker, however, despite netting the decisive opening goal, largely failed to make the most of his chance and rarely got in behind a well-organised Leeds side.
The Reds eventually ran out 2-0 winners, and yes,while he took his goal well, his all-round performance would not have done anything to convince Klopp not to spend big when the transfer window reopens.
As it went, it was the 17-year-old substitute Ben Woodburn who stole his thunder somewhat by stepping off the bench and netting a goal that would write his name into the club’s record books as their youngest-ever goalscorer.
? How does it feel to be our youngest-ever scorer, Ben? ?
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 29, 2016
But for Woodburn’s heroics, it was also the equally eye-catching display of Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back. The 18-year-old was deservedly named man of the match and put in a fine cross for Origi’s opener. One for the future, of that there’s no question.
But a question Klopp must answer is what to do about his attack.
Liverpool will face bigger and harder tests than the one Leeds presented on Tuesday night – but Origi didn’t do enough to convince that he can ever be more than a stand-in, or impact-sub at Anfield.
If Klopp are to sustain their title bid, Liverpool might just need to be brave and bring in some quality reinforcements up top.
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Wise Monk and Leeds youth give plenty of hope
Leeds fans are often quick to tell you their decline and suffering has been about as you can get in football. Even in the event of relegation from the Premier League in 2004, even the most negative of fans probably didn’t foresee them kicking their heels in the second tier for as long as they have.
There’s been close-run things – the play-off final defeat against an Ashley Young-inspired Watford back in 2006 – as close as they’ve got to returning to the big time.
But whisper it quietly, but Garry Monk is putting together in place a team who, at least look capable of pushing for a play-off spot again.
The EFL draw which paired them with Liverpool could have been a huge distraction for Leeds in the build-up to the game – especially given it was their first appearance in a domestic cup quarter-final in 16 long years.
But the ever-professional Monk had kept the attention well away from the game until virtually the day before; ensuring instead it was their performances in the Championship that were given the club’s full and undivided attention.
After a slow start to his reign, Monk has slowly solidified Leeds; building a team with not just a solid spine, but one that is hard to beat: one defeat in seven games – to table-topping Newcastle – testament to their new togetherness.
A clash at Anfield was always going to be a huge test of their progress, however, but Leeds were far from overrawed.
Liverpool, as expected made a confident start, keeping possession and preventing their visitors from seeing much of the ball.
Although the possession stats continued to weigh heavy in the Reds’ favour, Leeds put in a disciplined display, not least through the resilience of Kyle Bartley, Liam Cooper and the excellent Charlie Taylor in defence.
Taylor, for one, knew he’d have his work cut out against Liverpool’s main dangerman, Sadio Mane, but the Leeds academy product more than held his own, and even found time and the energy to join the Leeds attack.
Up front, Leeds opted to rest Chris Wood in favour of utilising the more mobile Souleymane Doukara, with Kemar Roofe and Hadi Sakho providing bursts from deep. Indeed, the tactic almost paid instant dividends when Sakho found himself through on goal after just three minutes; his effort well blocked by Simon Mignolet.
But it’s in the centre of the park where Monk can have most reason for optimism. Eunan O’Kane – a summer signing from Bournemouth – had looked tidy in possession, and even in his early departure to injury, Kalvin Phillips put in an energetic and disciplined display alongside the equally tigerish, and excellently-titled Ronaldo Vieira.
It was the energy of that young duo who allowed Leeds to finally get a foothold in the game as the match reached its hour mark – Leeds hitting the woodwork through Roofe and then seeing Mignolet make another routine save to deny him.
Leeds were ultimately undone when Liverpool turned the screw – but the bigger picture for the club and Monk is always the league. Tonight just underlined that, providing Monk keeps them focused, it might just be their year….