Chris Williams – LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND
Liverpool vs Salzburg – October, 2 – Champions League, Anfield
Salzburg arrived at Anfield after a wonderful display on matchday one against Genk, and after falling three goals behind they went on to give the European champions a major fright.
Joel Matip was the only change Jürgen Klopp made for the visit of Jesse Marsch’s Salzburg, who gave the Reds fair notice of their ability – a 6-2 win on the road in Genk a complete contrast from the Red’s opening defence of their trophy in Naples.
Sadio Mane was all smiles pre-match with the visiting Austrian staff, the forward spent two seasons at the Red Bull club and picked up an Austrian league and cup double.
However, smiles turned to frowns on nine minutes – the now Liverpool attacker on the end of a one-two with Roberto Firmino that ended with the 27-year-old calmly sliding the ball past Cican Stankovic in the Salzburg goal.
The visitors were playing their regular high-press game, but against one of the very best sides in Europe it was a dangerous tactic, and so it proved on 25 minutes. Andrew Robertson started and finished a phenomenal team goal, Liverpool were cruising and had the swagger of European champions.
Then, with only 36 minutes on the clock, Mohamed Salah made it three. Stankovic did well to stop Firmino’s trickery ending in a goal, but there was little he could do when his parry landed at Salah’s feet.
Marsch continued to try and raise his side, who looked shellshocked – the American urging his team to stick with what they know – quick passing and the clinical exploiting of space.
Three minutes later their perseverance paid dividends – Hee-Chan Hwang with a smart turn and neat finish snatched a goal back with six minutes of the half remaining.
Salzburg then went close just moments after the restart. Adrian tried an exceptionally risky pass inside his area that Patson Daka cut out – the Zambian’s interception just inches wide, it fired up the away support on the Anfield Road and left Klopp exhaling rather ferociously.
Liverpool’s German boss had more sloppy play to bemoan minutes later. Hee-Chan broke down the left flank before picking out Takumi Minamino, the Japanese international then silenced Anfield with a wonderful shot from distance.
Two suddenly became three – to the utter dismay of those inside Anfield. Erling Håland came off the bench to cap a sensational comeback from the Austrians. Marsch’s patience had been rewarded – rather than change his approach, the American believed in the ability of his players and they repaid him in the best possible way.
Liverpool desperately needed some inspiration, and it came with 20 minutes remaining – Firmino picked out Salah and the Egyptian did what he does best, an ice-cold finish to re-establish a lead that Anfield cheered loudly.
Not the best night for Klopp’s men, but they held on to claim a much needed three points in Group E. Salzburg however, their impressive Champions League performance continues.
Liverpool vs Salzburg – Three Stars
Sadio Mané (Liverpool)
The Senegalese forward tormented his old employers for 45 minutes, Liverpool were electric for the first half and Mané seemed to be everywhere. His goal after nine minutes set the tone for a blistering display of attacking football from both sides.
Hee-Chan Hwang (Salzburg)
The South-Korean forward pulled his side back into contention with a smart finish and went on to provide the assist for Salzburg’s second.
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
After throwing away a considerable lead, the Reds needed some inspiration. It came via their Brazilian forward – his vision allowed Anfield to breathe a sigh of relief.
Liverpool vs Salzburg – GOALS: 1-0 (Mané, 9′), 2-0 (Roberston, 25′), 3-0 (Salah, 39′) 3-1 (Hee-Chan, 39′), 3-2 (Minamino,56′), 3-3 (Håland, 60′), 4-3 (Salah, 70′)
Salzburg gave Liverpool a night they won’t forget in a hurry, the Austrians fought back from three goals down to take the game to the wire.
Liverpool vs Salzburg – Starting Lineups
Adrian, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane
Stankovic, Kristensen, Onguene, Wober, Ulmer, Minamino, Mwepu, Junuzovic, Szoboszlai, Daka, Hwang
Chris Williams is a freelance European football journalist. Covering the Bundesliga, Premier League and both of UEFA’s European club competitions. Published in both local and international publications, he also contributes to television and radio across the globe. A member of the UK’s Sports Journalist Association and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). Follow Chris Williams on Twitter @Chris78Williams