Liverpool vs Leeds United. Premier League.
Report and highlights as newly-promoted Leeds light up Anfield after 16 years away but leave empty-handed
Saturday 12 September 2020 21:14, UK
Leeds United returned to the Premier League with a bang but were beaten 4-3 by champions Liverpool in a thrilling encounter at Anfield.
Liverpool found themselves in front three times but were pegged back by a ruthless Leeds, who took the step up to the elite level in their stride. However, a late Mohamed Salah penalty - to seal his hat-trick - handed the hosts maximum points.
Salah also scored the first of his treble from the penalty spot after Leeds new-boy Robert Koch handled (4), but Jack Harrison scored an exquisite equaliser (12). Virgil van Dijk thumped home a header (20) only for Patrick Bamford to take advantage of a Van Dijk slip to level the game once again (30).
Salah then fired home a spectacular strike (32) as Liverpool took control, yet, Mateusz Klich equalised for the third time (66). The game looked to be drawing to a quiet conclusion but Leeds' new signing Rodrigo inexplicably fouled Fabinho inside the box and Salah stroked home from the spot.
In the first touchline meeting between Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa, it was Liverpool who dominated the tactical battle in the opening exchanges as Roberto Firmino got behind the visitors' defence after just 90 seconds but could not find the finish.
Skipper Jordan Henderson was passed fit for Liverpool. He was joined in midfield by Georginio Wijnaldum, despite recent speculation surround the Dutchman’s future at Anfield. Patrick Bamford kept his place in the starting XI, with new signing Rodrigo on the bench. Robin Koch was handed a debut his debut for Marcelo Bielsa's side.
The hosts continued to exploit the gaps in Leeds' defensive shape and Salah's strike deflected up off Koch's knee onto his arm. Referee Michael Oliver was well placed and awarded the penalty kick - a decision Sky Sports commentator Jamie Carragher called "harsh". Salah stepped up and fired home his first of the season in just the fourth minute.
Liverpool: Alisson (5), Alexander-Arnold (5), Gomez (6), Van Dijk (4), Robertson (7), Henderson (6), Wijnaldum (6), Keita (4), Salah (8), Firmino (6), Mane (5)
Subs: Jones (N/A), Fabinho (N/A)
Leeds: Meslier (7), Ayling (6), Koch (5), Struijk (5), Dallas (6), Phillips (7), Klich (8), Harrison (8), Hernandez (6), Costa (7), Bamford (7)
Subs: Rodrigo (4), Roberts (N/A)
Man of the match: Mohamed Salah
The early setback did not dent Leeds' confidence going forward with a Kalvin Phillips pass slicing open the Liverpool defence on 12 minutes. Harrison collected the pass in his stride and showed remarkable touch and guile to beat both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez before firing a powerful finish into the corner for 1-1.
Leeds remained naive in their defensive approach as a set-piece proved their downfall on 20 minutes. Koch's nightmare first involvement in the Premier League got worse as he allowed Van Dijk the run on him from a left-wing corner and the Dutchman's powerful header could not be kept out.
The 'you score, we score' vibe did not let up as Leeds were level again 10 minutes later. A ball over the top was arrogantly dealt with by Van Dijk, who could only prod a half-baked clearance into the path of Bamford. The former Chelsea striker clipped a nice finish over Alisson and perhaps now the game would settle down.
Liverpool were back in front within 90 seconds.
Some more questionable defending from Leeds following a free-kick that was launched into their area dropped to Salah about 18 yards out and he thrashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner.
Leeds remained in a brave mood after the break with, at times, Liverpool outnumbering attackers to defenders on the counter attack. Despite the openings, the fourth goal did not come for the hosts.
Georginio Wijnaldum drew a smart stop from Illan Meslier on 49 minutes and Sadio Mane blazed over after a superb one-two with Salah five minutes later.
Leeds punished that waywardness in front of goal with another well-executed equaliser with their third shot on target. Helder Costa swung a low ball into the box that included five Leeds attackers. The ball fell to Klich, who collected the ball into his stride and fired a dynamic finish into the far corner.
Most clubs would be happy with a 3-3 at Anfield, but not Leeds. Phillips curled an almost-perfect free-kick from 30 yards inches wide of the post as both teams hunted a winner. Van Dijk thought he had netted his second of the evening but his close-range finish from an Andy Robertson centre was chalked off for an infringement by substitute Curtis Jones on Koch.
Leeds looked likely to hold on but a lazy challenge by substitute Rodrigo on Fabinho inside the box handed Salah the chance to win it from the spot with two minutes left. The effervescent Egyptian made no mistake.
Plenty of plaudits and many things to take from their Anfield experience, but no points for Leeds.
"He's looked the sharpest of Liverpool's front three," said Carragher. It was hard to argue.
No player had more touches of the ball than Salah (83), highlighting just how involved he was in everything Liverpool did going forward. Along with his three goals he also made four key passes - no player made more.
Salah told Sky Sports: "It was at times so tough to play, especially here at Anfield without the fans. They pressed well and their intensity was really high. We had a good game. We shouldn't have conceded three but overall we did a good job. They're a tough team and they reacted really well. They scored three goals against us so we have to keep improving."
Usually the hat-trick scorer in a victory would be an automatic selection for the outstanding player award but this was a close call. Harrison and Klich produced important moments of quality for Leeds, while Phillips stood out in the heart of their midfield on his first Premier League start.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: "What a game, what an opponent, what a performance from both teams. A proper spectacle, I loved that.
"It is pretty rare you see that many goals in a game, we have left space for improvement in our defending but that is not unusual for a first game. Our players have played a few days ago for their countries so it is possible.
"The opponent forced us to make mistakes, we can do better, we will do better but I loved a lot about the game against a well-organised, passionate side like Leeds. We used our skills to cause them problems, we could have scored more and in the end we used set-pieces which is fine by me.
"It is not like riding a bike, you can lose something in pre-season and it takes time to all come together again. I am really positive about this game. Leeds will have a good season if they can keep up that intensity and they did it in the Championship with more games so why not?"
Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa: "It was a just defeat. Liverpool made it hard for us to neutralise them.
"In the second half especially we struggled to get the ball from defence to attack.
"We also stopped Liverpool playing like they usually do and we made a lot of effort. During large parts of the game we were able to match them."
Sky Sports' Graeme Souness:
"For 80 minutes, Leeds were fantastic. But in the last 10, Liverpool pinned them back and it was only a matter of time before someone made a mistake or someone came up with a piece of brilliance. But Leeds have made a real statement tonight.
"I wonder if they've got a big enough squad as they surely can't play like that every time as it was some effort. Liverpool weren't at their best because Leeds didn't allow it. Liverpool normally hunt teams down like Leeds did to them.
"Tonight, Leeds had more possession at Anfield than Liverpool and I don't think I've ever seen that before with this Liverpool team."
Sky Sports' Adam Bate:
"It would be easy to summarise the subsequent 4-3 defeat at Liverpool as Leeds United's introduction to the harsh realities of the Premier League. But after such a rousing display from the newly-promoted side, this felt more like the Premier League's introduction to Bielsa."
Klopp's men have a tasty fixture with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to focus on next Sunday, a game live on Sky Sports. Leeds welcome Hull City in the Carabao Cup in midweek before hosting Fulham in their first home game back in the Premier League next Saturday.