Liverpool 4-1 Luton: Depleted Liverpool fight back after early scare
Getty: James Gill - Danehouse

Few saw this coming at half time. There have been plenty of comebacks during Jurgen Klopp’s time in the Liverpool dugout, but rarely has there been such a contrast between the first and second halves of a home match than the one witnessed here.

For much of the opening 45 minutes against Luton Town, things did not click for Liverpool. Klopp had insisted that their mounting injury crisis should not be used as an excuse but there were times during an anxious and frustrating first half that suggested tired minds as well as bodies were at play.

Luton had made the home team pay by taking an unexpected lead through Chiedozie Ogbene which only added to the angst around Anfield. One bout of derision from some fans close to the dugout after another pass went astray even led to Klopp’s patience snapping, with him turning around to encourage them to stop.

Yet, after that troubled first half came a drastically different second; one in which Liverpool found their feet and the ball fell for them too. They scored three goals in 15 minutes — courtesy of Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz — to completely quash Luton’s hopes of an upset.

A fourth goal late on by Harvey Elliott enhanced Liverpool’s margin of victory, and Klopp’s fist pumps at the end were probably filled with relief more than anything else as a shock had been averted and their four-point lead at the top of the Premier League table restored.

Story of the game

Liverpool were without nine first team players; and that didn’t include Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez, who were both carrying knocks and not risked ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Chelsea.

Getty: Andy Powell
Getty: Andy Powell

That meant a forward line of Diaz, Gakpo and Elliott along with Alexis Mac Allister playing in a more advanced position in midfield. This rejigged side certainly missed something in the first half despite creating chances.

Diaz was guilty of spurning the best of the early openings by delaying one shot too long and when placing another wide with only Thomas Kaminski to beat. Gakpo did test the Luton goalkeeper with an overhead kick from an Elliott delivery but it was a relatively easy claim.

Luton had shown flashes of ingenuity and bravery in possession, and were backed by a throng of supporters in vivid orange — this no doubt being one of the away trips most anticipated on their long-awaited return to the top flight. And they had every right to celebrate after 12 minutes.

Rob Edwards’s side stunned Liverpool with their first proper foray forward. Alfie Doughty’s pass found Cauley Woodrow inside the area and the forward laid the ball to Tahith Chong. His low drive struck the legs of Caoimhin Kelleher, looped up towards the back post and was headed home from close range by Ogbene.

It was a poor goal to concede from a Liverpool perspective, and the half only worsened for the hosts. That was down to poor decision-making on their part but also the application of the Luton players, who defended admirably and tried to play through the Liverpool press with Ross Barkley again heavily involved.

There were plenty of grumblings amongst the home supporters at half time but that soon changed after the break. It was as if a different team walked out for the second half; more conviction and intensity came from the tunnel with them.

Getty: Robbie Jay Barratt
Getty: Robbie Jay Barratt

Diaz should have kickstarted Liverpool’s comeback earlier but fired straight at Eden Mengi. Instead, in the 56th minute, Van Dijk made a captain’s contribution by getting in front of Ogbene at a Mac Allister corner and sending a stooping, unstoppable header past Kaminski.

The equaliser released the anxiety from the crowd and within two minutes Liverpool were ahead. Mac Allister again played provider, this time being fed by a clever throw in from Conor Bradley, and delivered a first-time cross from which Gakpo impressively steered a header into the Luton net.

Liverpool were utterly dominant now and Kaminski saved well from Bradley, Gakpo and Van Dijk as the home team looked for a third. It arrived when substitute Andy Robertson was first to a Luton clearance and released Diaz down the left. The Colombian drifted inside before dispatching a convincing finish at the near post.

With the three points tied up, a flourish was added in the 90th minute when Jayden Danns — and 18-year-old forward on for his Liverpool debut — sent Gakpo away, and although Mengi managed to halt the forward’s run, Elliott was present to sweep home the loose ball. And by that stage, Luton’s early lead was a distant memory.