Five talking points as Firmino fires Liverpool to a last-gasp victory
over PSG
Anwo00 via Pixabay

Five talking points as Firmino fires Liverpool to a last-gasp victory over PSG

The Reds were worthy winners on the night but it took a late strike to hand them the points on matchday one.

matt-addison
Matt Addison

The opening night of the 2018/19 Champions League saw plenty of drama unfold at Anfield as Roberto Firmino’s last-minute winner ensured Liverpool are top of their group after one game, and continued their 100% record in all competitions since the season began.

The Reds had been two goals to the good thanks to strikes from Daniel Sturridge – making his first Champions League start for the club since signing in 2013 – and James Milner, who converted from the spot when Gini Wijnaldum was fouled, but Paris-Saint Germain fought back.

Thomas Meunier got the first goal prior to the half-time whistle, before Kylian Mbappe added another on 83 minutes after Mo Salah had given the ball away cheaply on halfway.

Firmino's winner came after Liverpool had dominated the play in the second half, making them worthy victors. 

Milner the man of the season so far

Liverpool are well stocked in the centre of the pitch, but at 32 Milner is not going away; instead, he has made himself indispensable.

The number seven converted coolly from 12 yards in front of the Kop, keeping his nerve to make it 2-0 on the night, but that was far from being exclusively the most impressive thing about his performance.

His shuttle runs from left to right and back again shut down space for Liverpool's talented opponents to exploit, while his quality on the ball is undeniable.

It would be unwise to say he has peaked, since he has reached new levels this season even as a professional of 16 years – and could push on again – but there is a marked improved on last season, which was already a high starting point.

Few would have expected him to keep Naby Keita on the bench all night and Fabinho to enter the field for just a few fleeting seconds, but if he maintains this level, he will not be able to be left out. 

Sturridge with the opener

Synonymous with injuries and with Liverpool only qualifying for the Champions League three times since his arrival from Chelsea, that this was Sturridge’s first taste of football at this level in a red shirt is perhaps only slightly surprising.

Eager to make up for lost time, he marked the occasion with a goal and slotted in admirably for Firmino at the top of the pitch.

As he did in pre-season, Sturridge worked hard off the ball and dropped deep in possession, becoming the link between defence and attack at times; this, though, was an altogether different task than he faced before the real games kicked off.

Sturridge has lost a yard or two of pace, but his technique and quality remain fully intact; Jurgen Klopp will need to call on the England international a number of times over the coming weeks, and it is vital that his body gets the memo.

His header from Andy Robertson's cross saw Liverpool take the lead, and set up the rest of the evening. 

Defensive stability

Not for the first time this season, defensive duo Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk did not put a foot wrong against tricky opponents.

Very few attacking tridents can match Liverpool's front three, but in Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Mbappe, PSG certainly pack a punch.

Trent Alexander-Arnold pocketed Neymar, Cavani was left frustrated by getting no change out of the referee or Liverpool's defence, while Mbappe scored but was generally marshalled well by Robertson.

In times gone by under Klopp, Liverpool would have wilted as they did at this stage of the competition last season in Seville, squandering a three-goal lead on that night; there are no fears of anything like that happening any more.

Titles are secured with solid bases, and for the first time in years, Liverpool have one that can withstand even the toughest examinations.

Neymar silenced

On his last visit to Anfield – with Brazil in a pre-World Cup 2018 friendly against Croatia – Neymar was the star attraction, coming on as a substitute to inject life into the game and score an incredible goal. The same certainly cannot be said of this match.

His ability is undoubted, but Liverpool – including Jordan Henderson and Alexander-Arnold primarily – kept him facing his own goal as much as possible, away from danger.

Right from the first tackle, it was clear that he does not relish a physical battle, and so it was only right that Liverpool gave him one.

Give the player too much respect and space, and he will cause problems; be aggressive from the start as Liverpool were and his talents can be contained.

Eyes on the prize

Not accustomed to being placed on the bench, there was nothing wrong with Firmino’s eye – injured on Saturday at Wembley – when he turned and shot in the second minute of added time to clinch the three points.

Last time Thomas Tuchel brought a team to Anfield, it was Dejan Lovren who scored in injury time to force a winner, but the Brazilian obliged this time around.

At such a late stage in the game, to have the composure to jink one way then the other before slotting into the far corner was immense. 

With Napoli only able to draw with Red Star Belgrade, Liverpool enter matchday two thank to an unlikely super-sub; with quality like his, don't bet on it being a role he fulfils too often. 

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