Our Liverpool blogger Dave Tindall analyses last night’s 4-3 win against Red Bull Salzburg and thinks Brendan Rodgers is finally getting the credit he deserves from Liverpool fans, all in Red Letter.
We’re that good defensively these days that I didn’t think we’d ever do 4-3 scorelines again.
And yet, in a complete throwback to those mid-90s epics against Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, we once again came out on top in a seven-goal thriller against RB Salzburg on Wednesday night.
This one actually followed the same pattern as the (less-good) Newcastle clash in March 1997 when we were 3-0 up and cruising before being pegged back to 3-3.
Robbie Fowler got us out of jail with his second of the night and this time it was Mo Salah who bagged a brace to restore order.
But what a weird and fascinating game though. I was lucky to have a ticket for the match and, all told, it was one of the most entertaining Champions League matches I can recall.
Driving home, there was much guffawing and mirth on talkSPORT’s late-night phone-in about our big wobble and one Tottenham fan rang up to say that conceding three goals in 20 minutes to a team from Austria was more embarrassing than losing 7-2 at home to Bayern Munich, as Spurs had the night before. Yeah, right.
The laughter and bantz focused on the teams RB Salzburg had been beating but rather glossed over the scorelines. A reminder then of their league results so far: 2-0, 4-1, 5-2, 6-0, 5-0, 5-1, 7-2, 2-2, 4-1. Oh, and then of course their Champions League opener when they demolished Genk 6-2 – the same Genk, who drew 0-0 with Napoli on Wednesday night.
Salzburg no cannon fodder
Those are not normal results. Something different is going on. Can people please stop just lazily throwing RB Salzburg in with other teams perceived as cannon fodder.
It should be a clue that two of our players – Sadio Mane and Naby Keita – started out at Salzburg. The Austrians have a seriously-good scouting network and some of the players that starred at Anfield on Wednesday will go for big money.
Take the thee goalscorers. Hee-Chan Hwang from South Korea has six goals in his last six, two in two in the Champions League and netted against us to make it 3-1 by putting Virgil on his ar*e before smashing home an unstoppable shot past Adrian.
Takumi Minamino, scorer of the second Salzburg goal… my god, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by an opposition player at Anfield. After one outrageous turn near the centre circle, I tapped the lad next to me and said, “that number 18’s some player”. Often such comments backfire but he was sensational. For the second goal, I could see how much space he was in and was thinking ‘mark him, mark him’. A superb ball picked Minamino out and he thumped home a superb volley to cut the lead to 3-2.
The one who had generated most curiosity in the build-up was Alfie Inge Haland’s son, Erling Braut Haland. Disappointingly for those of us wanting to get a closer-up look on the striker who has already scored three hat-tricks this season – including a Champions League treble against Genk – he was only a sub. But he came on in the 56th-minute, looked dangerous, had a definite top striker’s awareness of where to move and was there to tap in the third.
Haland is 19, Hwang 23 and Minamino 24. I’ll be staggered if much bigger clubs don’t come in for them soon. Seriously, put that trio up against Man City, Chelsea, Spurs, Man Utd or Arsenal and they’d cause chaos.
‘I’d love it if they end up playing Man Utd’
After the nonsense of the talkSPORT call-in, to quote Kevin Keegan: “I’d love it” if they end up playing Man Utd or Arsenal in the Europa League. Then we’d see that scoring three at Anfield was no fluke. Salzburg will always concede goals but they’re an absolute attacking beast, a glorious throwback. It was massively refreshing to see a team come to us – the champions of Europe – and just go for it.
The away leg in Austria will be fascinating, as could their home and away games against Napoli. Seriously, don’t rule them out still finishing in the top two, or if not, causing mayhem and going a long way in the Europa League. If they do drop to Europe’s second-tier competition, I’m having a bet on them to lift the trophy.
Rodgers’ Leicester a real threat
Talk of Keegan’s Newcastle brings me on to another manager with strong Liverpool history.
Brendan Rodgers’ reign at Liverpool is still the subject of much debate. There’s a feeling that all he had to do was send Luis Suarez onto the pitch and the Uruguayan would do the rest. And the defining memory of that title run in 2013/14 is Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea.
In other words, does Rodgers get the credit he deserves?
Liverpool won 12 of their final 14 Premier League matches that season and – in echoes of 2018/19 – City had to, and did, win their last five games to ruin our dream. And yet, Jurgen Klopp is a genius while we think of Rodgers as a bit of a David Brent character, who came out with happy-clappy positivity messages which people clutter up Facebook with.
LFC finished seventh – below Everton! – with 61 points in 2012/13. The following season we bagged 84 – a massive jump of 23 – and almost won the title.
Under Klopp, we finished fourth with 75 points in 2017/18. The following season we bagged 97 – a jump of 22 – and almost won the title.
Both were superb feats of management.
Brendan heading to Celtic didn’t really solve any arguments. He was going to the best team in Scotland – Rangers were still coming back from their demotion – and Rodgers did what was expected. The jury was still out.
Rodgers’ respect growing
But now I think the respect is coming his way. The stats show that, since Rodgers took over at the King Power, only us and Man City have accumulated more points. Their current position of third seems a fair reflection that they’re the best of the rest so far.
I saw Leicester come to Anfield on a snowy night in late January last season. Sadio Mane scored after three minutes but Harry Maguire nodded in an equaliser and they were good value for a point. That was with Claude Puel in charge and – to be fair – the Frenchman had found a way of negating us when in charge of Southampton.
If there’s a doubt over Rodgers, it’s that he hasn’t cracked it against the bigger teams when playing away from home. We were dreadful on the road in Europe under him and he’s already lost 1-0 at Old Trafford this season when more was expected.
But I have to admit I’m wary of Saturday’s game. Ndidi was excellent at Anfield last season, Vardy has a superb record against ‘Big Six’ teams and they have a bunch of in-form and confident players.
Then again, we do keep finding a way. Past Liverpool teams would have probably conceded a late equaliser at Chelsea, drawn/lost at Sheffield United and been freaked by Salzburg’s fightback. This one dug deep and won them all.
Seven wins out of seven to start this Premier League campaign is magnificent. Hopefully Wednesday night will be a bit of a wake-up call.