By Brian Bariyo Tumuramye
Mohammad Salah saved the Reds’ blushes after Salzburg came with a lot more swagger than usually shown by visitors to Anfield
Maybe it was the sight of Virgil van Dijk struggling to stay off his backside that sparked it of the world’s best defender being spurn inside-out by a forward who spent last season on loan at Hamburg that started the slide.
When Hee-Chan Hwang embarrassed UEFA’s Player of the Year just before half-time and rifled a right-footer past Adrian, it seemed certain to simply be a cutting for the South Korean’s scrapbook.
After all, it merely reduced Liverpool’s lead to a couple and they had looked able to score at will for most of the first half Instead, to their cavalier credit, FC Salzburg staged one of the most entertaining fightbacks seen on this field. And there have been a few of those.
Like they normally do, Liverpool found a way to win. But normally, they have to break teams down – this time, they had to overcome opponents way more adventurous than those who routinely visit here.
The Austrians had been on the front from the off, which was probably why they found themselves three down after little more than half an hour but after Hwang had pulled one back, they swarmed all over the home side after the break.
The sweet volley from Takumi Minamino and the tap-in equaliser from substitute Erling Braut Haaland were just rewards for their swashbuckling approach.
Especially when, for most of the first half, their followers’ ambitions must have been limited to avoiding a humiliation because Liverpool themselves started in imperious fashion.
It seems Lionel Messi might not just be the Greatest Of All Time, he might be a very decent judge he voted for Sadio Mane as World Player of the Year and would have approved of Mane’s latest European strike here, approved of the way he embarrassed defender Rasmus Kristensen, approved of the smart exchange with Roberto Firmino and the clipped finish.
He certainly would have approved of Andrew Robertson’s goalscoring contribution starting the move with a surge from his own half and a pass, he just kept on going and swept in a fizzed assist from, no surprises, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
In footballing terms, it was peak Klopp – no wonder he seemed to celebrate with even more gusto than usual and when Salah only had to side foot a push-out from keeper Cican Stankovic to put Liverpool three up in little more than half an hour, it seemed the only imponderable was how crushing the formality was going to be.
But then came the eye-rubbing scene of Van Dijk being outmanoeuvred and an opposition confidence and swagger not often seen at Anfield on a European night.
Bear in mind what happened to the last Champions League visitors, Barcelona, here.
But after drawing level, the Salzburg defence stalled, allowing Salah to smuggle himself through the middle and apply a winning touch to Firmino’s deft flick.