Red Bull Salzburg came back from 3-0 down to make Liverpool work hard for a 4-3 Champions League win at Anfield on Wednesday night.
With 36 minutes played, goals from Sadio Mane, Andrew Robertson and Mohamed Salah seemed to put the tie to bed early but Hwang Hee-Chan pulled one back before the break to keep hope alive for the away side.
Takumi Minamino then made it 3-2 early in the second period before prodigious forward talent Erling Haaland – who began on the bench as he recovered from illness – levelled the tie on the hour mark, just four minutes after his introduction.
However, the reigning European champions held their nerve, refocused and proceeded to take the upper hand again as Roberto Firmino set up Salah for his second and ultimately the game’s decisive goal.
It’s not often a forward leaves Virgil van Dijk in his wake but Hwang pulled off just that with flair towards the end of the first half. As the South Korean chopped inside onto his right foot, the Ballon d’Or hopeful watched helplessly from the deck as the forward proceeded to execute a sublime finish into the far corner.
But he wasn’t the only Asian to make a formidable central defensive pairing of Van Dijk and Joe Gomez look increasingly stretched. Driving on from midfield, Minamino was a handful for Liverpool’s defence as he played several incisive passes in the final third and worked superbly in tandem with Hwang.
Between them, the Asian duo mustered five attempts at goal and four key passes while scoring and assisting once each. When Hwang dropped off, Minamino ran beyond and vice-versa. It was a nightmare to pick them up and Gomez in particular was caught out by their movement.
The Englishman had a horrendous game as he kept getting dragged out of position and leaving the defence exposed behind him, something Salzburg regularly seemed to exploit.
Haaland began on the bench but his introduction in the 56th minute only made Salzburg’s attacking contingent appear more explosive. It wasn’t long before he made Liverpool feel the heat either, tapping into an empty net just four minutes after taking to the pitch, benefiting from some fine work from Minamino.
It was a terrific attacking display from the visitors and all the more impressive after going 3-0 down. Had their finishing been a little better, they might’ve come away from Merseyside with a result.
TWO OF A KIND
Years from now, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson will be fondly remembered as one of the finest full-back pairings to play the game. Liverpool are consistently exalted for their phenomenal front three of Firmino, Mane and Salah but such is the thrust provided from full-back that they almost operate with a front five instead.
Indeed the duo have now combined for a staggering 34 assists since the start of last season and Liverpool’s second against Salzburg on the night encapsulated the dynamic they add in attack.
Robertson drove forward from deep and shifted the ball inside which eventually found its way to Alexander-Arnold on the right. Having continued his run into the box, Robertson was then on hand to slot away his opposite full-back’s ball in, completing a lovely sweeping move.
Since the start of last season, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have assisted 34 goals between them 😳— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 2, 2019
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