Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
It was plain-sailing for Liverpool as they put four unanswered goals past West Ham United on Sunday.
Getting their Premier League campaign up and running in the best possible fashion, Mohamed Salah picked up where he left off last season with an opening goal for the Reds before a Sadio Mane brace and Daniel Sturridge strike completed the rout.
With the Hammers on the receiving end of Liverpool’s biggest opening day win this century, here are the winners and losers from the match.
It’s the third successive opening game that Sadio Mane has found the net in. After bagging against Arsenal and Watford in the last two years, he continued to wreak havoc amongst London clubs with a goal either side of half-time.
The first came as a result of slack West Ham defending, Mane staying alive in the area to prod home after James Milner hooked back Andrew Robertson’s cross. His second required much more skill, spinning quickly inside the area before slamming the ball past Lukasz Fabianski first time.
Not only was Mane prolific in the attacking third, he also laid on two key passes, won three out of three tackles and made an intelligent inside run to create space for Robertson’s opening assist.
With Premier League defences likely to focus their resources on stopping Salah this season, there’s nothing to stop Mane heavily adding to his opening two goals.
Whilst the four goals scored will stick out most for Liverpool fans, conceding zero at home is something they’re hoping to become more accustomed to.
Joe Gomez was a big part of that, putting in an assured display at centre-back. Despite having scarcely played the position competitively since moving to Merseyside, Jurgen Klopp confirmed last week that Gomez was no longer in the squad to play at right-back.
He could hardly have put in a better audition to be Virgil van Dijk’s long-term partner, shining at the end of a few weeks where the injury issues of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren have flagged up once again.
Winning over 70% of his duels, Gomez gave little away at the back and recovered with a fine tackle on Marko Arnautovic during the one occasion he did. As mentioned in our build-up to the game, his pace aided Liverpool in squeezing West Ham back, limiting the Hammers to just two shots on target throughout.
Patient Liverpool fans
348 days after a deal had been agreed to sign Naby Keita from RB Leipzig, Liverpool supporters finally got to see their man in competitive action and it was well worth the wait.
Whilst not putting in a spectacular display, Keita’s 7/10 performance was delivered with such ease on the ball, as if everything looked a little too simple for him.
An intelligently timed pass to Robertson aided Liverpool’s opener in a game where Keita floated around the pitch that he owned, barely needing to get out of second gear. Full in the knowledge that there’s much more to come from their new number eight, this performance whetted the Kop’s appetite even more.
West Ham’s owners
Those in charge at West Ham aren’t the most silent of club owners. However, you’d expect them to be keeping hush behind the sofa after this one.
Following a transfer window lauded by fans, the press and anyone willing to open their mouth on the topic, the Hammers’ owners were hoping to see their investment yield an improvement on the hammerings they’ve taken to ‘big six’ clubs in recent years.
The response they got wasn’t ideal, watching their side concede four goals against Liverpool for a fourth successive fixture as Claret and Blue debutants struggled across the pitch.
Felipe Anderson flattered to deceive in midfield despite some nice touches, whilst similar could be said about Jack Wilshere.
Fabian Balbuena suffered a torrid time at centre back and was lucky to avoid a red card when, already on a yellow, he chopped down Keita in the second-half. It didn’t get much better for the highly rated Ryan Fredericks, given a torrid welcome to Premier League life by the rampant Mane.
A few smart Fabianski saves could be considered a bright point, if you get past him conceding four.
You’ve got to feel for Nathaniel Clyne. He spent much of last season on the treatment table, watching Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold flourish in his position.
This summer, with Gomez looking for a centre back berth and Alexander-Arnold returning late from the World Cup, you’d forgive him for thinking he was in line with a chance of starting the season at right-back. Sorry, Nathaniel.
Despite having barely been back in training for a week, 19-year-old Alexander-Arnold went straight back into the side and played a stunning ball to Keita in the build-up for Liverpool’s opener as Clyne watched on from the bench.
Last season has made Klopp’s mind up on the position. Just how Clyne feels about that is one to keep an eye on.
Away teams at Anfield
Liverpool remained unbeaten in the league at Anfield last season, but drew seven of their 19 home games. That’s something they must improve upon to challenge Manchester City this season, and they’ve started in style.
West Ham couldn’t live with the Reds’ constant interchanging, Roberto Firmino dropping deep as Salah tucked in, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson bombing down the flanks whilst Keita and Milner shifted the ball around midfield with grace and elegance.
Throwing on the bright Xherdan Shaqiri and then Sturridge only further evidenced the threat that Liverpool will pose this season, with the latter finding the net mere seconds after entering the fray.
Klopp’s men will be tough to stop at Anfield this season, the way it should be for title challengers.
Wilshere and Noble
Ouch. Just ouch.
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