Thursday 5 December 2019

Red Bull wings clipped as Salah comes to rescue

Liverpool 4 Red Bull Salzburg 3

Andy Robertson celebrates his goal with Trent Alexander-Arnold, who gave him the assist
Andy Robertson celebrates his goal with Trent Alexander-Arnold, who gave him the assist

Defending champions Liverpool's first European outing on home soil since winning the cup in Madrid was not quite the celebration they would have anticipated after a tense 4-3 win Red Bull Salzburg.

Anfield was hosting a landmark 100th European Cup match but very few of those occasions would have seen them squander a three-goal lead.

Leading through goals from Sadio Mane, against his former club, a rare but brilliantly worked Andy Robertson goal and Mohamed Salah, the European champions were in cruise control.

It merely seemed a matter of how many more with almost an hour to play, especially as Napoli's goalless draw in Genk offered the Reds every incentive they needed to take the game to their Austrian opponents, but uncharacteristic casualness crept into their play and they almost paid dearly for it.

The last time this ground hosted Champions League football it witnessed one of the competition's greatest comebacks as Barcelona were defeated 4-0 in the semi-final second leg.

Five months on an altogether different turnaround left Jurgen Klopp's side confused and chasing shadows as Salzburg proved there is much more to them than teenage goalscoring sensation Erling Braut Haaland.

The son of former Leeds, Nottingham Forest and Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland was only fit enough for a place on the bench after an illness but in his absence Hwang Hee-chan and Takumi Minamoto pegged their hosts back to 3-2.

With Salzburg coach Jesse Marsch sensing blood he sent on Haaland and the Norwegian scored his 18th goal of the season within four minutes.

There was more than a brief moment of panic as manager, players and fans questioned how this could have happened.

However, there was still one more twist to come, with Salah's volley settling things 20 minutes from time.

It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Liverpool as when they were good they were very good but when they were bad they were awful.

Their defence, with regular centre-back Joel Matip's replacement Joe Gomez showing obvious signs of ring rust, was breached seemingly at will in the second half.

After the game, Liverpool's saviour Mohamed Salah said: "I think they (Salzburg) had a good game and after they scored three goals it become difficult to play them.

"We try to focus on each game and when we were winning by three, the human mind says: 'we need to score more goals.'

"They made it tough for us but I'm happy with the three points tonight."

The Egyptian was also pleased that Robertson got a goal: "He finally scored! He doesn't score a lot but he works so hard for the team and we're all really happy for him."

Mane had known what to expect from his former team.

"To be honest, I knew how good Salzburg were as I was there for two and a half years. They never give up and push and they caused us problems, but finally we scored more goals," he said.

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