Drew Robertson

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Liverpool beat spirited Salzburg, reach UCL last 16

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The reigning European champions are in the last 16 of the competition.

Liverpool won Group E on Wednesday as they beat a spirited RB Salzburg 2-0 in Austria to secure their position in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds. A defeat would have seen them knocked out of the competition at the group stage but despite a shaky start they took care of business.

Both teams had plenty of chances in the first half and at the start of the second but two moments of real quality saw Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah do the damage for the Reds as Klopp’s side plan to reach their third-straight UCL final. As for Salzburg, managed by American coach Jesse Marsch, then drop down to the UEFA Europa League for the Round of 32 stage and nobody will want to play the young, talented and speedy Austrians.

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A breathtaking game started in rapid fashion as Stankovic denied Salah, then Alisson denied Minamino and Hwang with Mwepu causing plenty of problems. Moments later Salah had a great chance as he was played in by Mane but scuffed his shot wide, while Haaland was denied by Alisson as the end-to-end nature of the game continued.

Mane’s shot was saved by Stankovic, while at the other end Haaland was denied by Alisson as the hosts continued to look dangerous and neither team had control of the game. Salah played in Keita right on half time but the former RB Salzburg player was denied by Stankovic and couldn’t finish the rebound.

In the second half Salah had a couple of very good chances but he put one over the bar and Stankovic did superbly to claw the ball back, while Haaland then slammed a shot into the side-netting from a great position.

Liverpool made the most of Haaland letting them off the hook as Dejan Lovren went off injured and moments later they were ahead.

Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s incredible ball set up an attack down the left and Mane crossed for Keita to head home as the two former Salzburg players combined to put Liverpool 1-0 up. Moments later Salah stunned Salzburg further as he raced towards goal and Stankovic came off his line with Salah at an impossible angle.

But somehow Salah squeezed the ball home from a tight angle to make it 2-0 and set up a comfortable last 30 minutes.

Hwang’s shot was deflected over by Andrew Robertson and that was the closest Salzburg came to launching an unlikely comeback, as Mane and Salah both had chances to extend the lead but it was job done for the reigning champions.

WATCH: Chaos at Anfield as Liverpool opens up 2-0, quarter-hour lead

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Two shots, two goals.

That’s what Liverpool needed — along with some help from a handball non-call — to take a two-goal, quarter-hour lead over Manchester City at Anfield.

The visitors had all of the ball and even looked destined to earn a penalty when Trent Alexander-Arnold handled in the box, but Liverpool raced down the field and struck first blood.

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Ilkay Gundogan‘s soft clearance rolled to Fabinho, who hit a vicious strike from distance to put the hosts up 1-0 in the 7th minute.

VAR had a look and didn’t like what it saw enough to change anything. The banger stood.

And Liverpool opened up a 2-0 lead on its second chance of the day.

Andrew Robertson‘s cross sailed around City’s defense to meet just-onside Salah, who headed past Bravo.

Liverpool snatch dramatic late win at Aston Villa

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Liverpool just won’t give up.

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Jurgen Klopp‘s side remain unbeaten in the Premier League, as they struck twice late on to win 2-1 at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Andrew Robertson headed home in the 88th minute to equalize after Trezeguet had given Villa the lead in the first half, then Sadio Mane scored in stoppage time to seal the dramatic comeback win.

Liverpool’s lead atop the table remains at six points ahead of their next Premier League game, which is against Man City next Sunday.


3 things we learned

1. Gritty Liverpool grind it out again: What a comeback. This Liverpool side have fought back in each of their last three games, with a draw at Man United, a win against Tottenham and now a late, late, late victory at Aston Villa thanks to another comeback. The way Klopp and his players celebrated when Mane scored told the entire story. This is a side which never gives up. They were relentless and bullied their way back into the game after another slow start. With their 27-game unbeaten run on the line, Liverpool stood tall. Like they keep doing each and every week, no matter what situation they find themselves in.

2. Villa fail to make most of another shock lead: Just like they did against Tottenham on the opening day of the season, Villa coughed up another shock lead. Dean Smith‘s side are a fine team to watch but they just don’t have that nasty edge to their game to grind out victories. That will come and hanging on against Liverpool isn’t easy, but they sat back and just couldn’t couldn’t control the game in midfield as the Reds won the ball back time and time again.

3. Title race set up perfectly: Both Liverpool and Man City rallied to secure late comeback wins on Saturday, and it set things up for their monster clash at Anfield next Sunday. There will be so many twists and turns in this title race, and next weekend’s encounter will be epic. Liverpool are doing everything they can to stay ahead of Man City because they know Pep Guardiola‘s side will improve. After 11 games of the season, the title race is set up perfectly.

Man of the Match: Sadio Mane – A constant pest for Villa’s defense, Mane set up Robertson to make it 1-1, then scored the winner himself in stoppage time. A superb display in a superb season for Mane, even if he was booked for simulation in the first half. Aside from that he was brilliant.


Wesley and Bjorn Engels almost got on the end of a loose ball in the box as Villa were pinned back early but

Villa did take the lead through Trezeguet, as a free kick to the back post found the Egyptian winger unmarked and he finished to make it 1-0.

Liverpool then thought they had equalized as Firmino put the ball in the back of the net after a cross from Mane, but the Brazilian was offside and VAR was used to rule it out. By the tightest of margins, Liverpool were denied a first half equalizer.

Mane was then caught by Frederic Guilbert as VAR was used and the Liverpool forward was booked for simulation.

Liverpool huffed and puffed as they tried to get back in the game, as Villa did their best to lock down the lively Mane.

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In the second half Georginio Wijnaldum tested Tom Heaton and then the English goalkeeper denied Mane’s header, while at the other end Wesley was almost set free on the break.

Mohamed Salah was found by Andrew Robertson at the back post but his header was off target as Liverpool pushed hard for an equalizer.

Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made a big impact off the bench as Engels and Mings blocked his shots, then Mane slipped as he got an effort off on the edge of the box and Adam Lallana then missed a glorious chance.

At the other end Trezeguet set up Connor Hourihane and with Alisson racing off his line, Virgil Van Dijk arrived to clear the danger.

Trent Alexander-Arnold flashed a shot inches wide, and then Liverpool secured the win.

First, Robertson headed home at the back post to make it 1-1 after Mane’s great cross.

And then Alexander-Arnold’s free kick was tipped over in stoppage time, and from the resulting corner Mane brilliantly flicked home a header to make it 2-1.

Cue wild scenes in the away end at Villa Park.

Player ratings from Manchester United-Liverpool

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Manchester United’s late letdown denied Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a statement victory against Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool, as both managers had their moments at Old Trafford.

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The players, too, were a mixed bag, as Liverpool missed Mohamed Salah in a big way in a game that also cried out for Paul Pogba.

Manchester United

David De Gea — 6 — Not a ton to do, and would’ve had to have been a super hero to deny the goal.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — 7 — Was very good for most of the match, though either Andreas Pereira or him failed to bother Andy Robertson‘s cross for the equalizer.

Marcos Rojo — 5 — A solid step-in performance right up until he committed to block Robertson’s cross and missed it, allowing Lallana a tap-in.

Victor Lindelof — 6 — Got away with a foul on Origi in the build-up to United’s goal, but otherwise well within himself.

Harry Maguire — 7 — Marshaled a surprising back three very well.

Ashley Young — 6 — All over the place, sometimes in the good way and sometimes in the bad.

Fred — 5 — Like watching a whirlwind, it’s difficult to tell whether his activity is influential in a positive light or just making up for lack of positional awareness.

Scott McTominay — 7 — He’s a big, strong, heady youngster, and did well in a midfield match-up which was considering to be a lopsided disadvantage.

Andreas Pereira (Off 90′) — 5 — Ran his shorts off, but so many needless fancy first half touches. Imagine Pogba in his place executing this game plan, and it may’ve been 3-1 at the break.

Daniel James — 7 — Took a beating and contributed plenty at the back end, and that’s without mentioning his cross for Rashford’s goal.

Marcus Rashford (Off 84′) — 7 — A slow start gave way to a star turn, with his goal the highlight but his industry what made him a MOTM candidate.

Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer — 8 — Would’ve liked to see Martial or Mata for Pereira earlier, but the back three was as gutsy and proper trap for Klopp, one that clearly upset the Liverpool boss. With Mohamed Salah out, the move blossomed further.

Subs:
Anthony Martial (On 84′) — N/A
Brandon Williams (On 90′) — N/A

Liverpool

Alisson Becker — 6 — One save and one clearance in a non-descript match.

Andrew Robertson — 7 — Relentless as usual and got his assist through traffic to keep the undefeated record in play. Caught out of the camera on United’s goal, but that’s a symptom of the system.

Virgil Van Dijk — 6 — Fine. Would’ve liked him to do something instead of playing a mile off of James’ run, but expecting heroism in every game is a lot for a center back.

Joel Matip — 5 — A step back for the newly-resigned center back, as he couldn’t cut out James’ cross on the goal.

Trent Alexander-Arnold — 5 — Ten crosses. One on the mark. A decent-enough day in his own end, but far from his standard without Mohamed Salah.

Fabinho — 6 — Hard-edged when the Reds were sleeping.

Jordan Henderson (Off 71′) — 4 — Sloppy and grew more so after the break, clearly frustrated by the atmosphere. Took a decent chance to trouble De Gea and sliced it into outer space.

Georginio Wijnaldum (Off 82′)  — 7 — A curious sub, as the Dutch international looked one of the few players capable of supplying something special.

Sadio Mane — 6 — Has a goal in a world without silly handball rules. Otherwise not really in the fray.

Divock Origi (Off 60′) — 4 — On his horse early, his influence waned to the point he was a spectator when Jurgen Klopp replaced him.

Roberto Firmino — 5 — A rare off day for one of the best center forwards in the business.

Manager: Jurgen Klopp — 7 — It took him a while to figure out United’s back three, but all three of his subs were influential in the point.

Subs:
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (On 60′) — 8 — The original AOC changed the game.
Adam Lallana (On 71′) — 8 — That’s a great way to end a goal drought
Naby Keita (On 82′) — 7 — Got the defense moving, setting up space for Robertson assist.

Key battles for Manchester United v. Liverpool

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The fact that that question is unquestionably valid, the visiting Reds a heavy favorite at the home of their longtime rival, says a lot, doesn’t it?

[ PL PREVIEW: Man Utd v. Liverpool ]

Let’s start with two 1v1 jobs and end with a battle that only involves two men and their bodies.

Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spring a midfield surprise to level tilted pitch

Make no mistake about it: Whatever midfield Jurgen Klopp trots onto the field at Old Trafford will be far superior to the one on the other side.

Manchester United boss Solskjaer was pretty optimistic when he pointed to this match as the “perfect” one to follow the Red Devils setback against Newcastle United, which seems bonkers but could serve as a proper showcase of why the club continues to back its former star striker.

So how will Solskjaer attempt to outfox the Reds without Paul Pogba as a midfield different maker? It seems likely we’ll see hard men at their hardest and most ornery in the forms of Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic, although Fred has seen plenty of playing time as of late.

Solskjaer might be best served by sitting back and trying to counter, but that doesn’t really vibe with Solskjaer’s overall “We’re Manchester United” mentality. So presuming we won’t see five at the back, it’s paramount that the boss finds a way to outduel (probably) three of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

It kinda recalls “The Dark Knight” when the Wayne Enterprises lawyer tries to blackmail the company via its bankrolling of Batman. Picture Morgan Freeman offering a smirking, “Good luck.”

Maguire hopes to defy his history versus Liverpool

Harry Maguire has a quality record against many teams, but Liverpool is not one of them.

The now-Red Devils’ center back managed a goal in Leicester City’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool last season, but that point was the first he’s won against Liverpool dating back to his time with Hull City. Maguire is 1W-1D-4L all-time against the Reds.

Maguire has seen Liverpool score eight goals in its last four matches against him, all while a member of Leicester, and the scorers are familiar: Salah (3), Mane (2),  Firmino (1), Jordan Henderson (1), Philippe Coutinho (1).

With the midfield mismatched in heavy favor of Liverpool, Maguire and Victor Lindelof will need to produce one of their finest displays.

Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka versus their fitness

With Paul Pogba and David De Gea out of the lineup, there’s no question that extra emphasis will be placed on United’s standout players when the ball is kicked on Sunday.

Make no mistake about: Along with Harry Maguire, Martial and Wan-Bissaka have been United’s best players when healthy this season.

Martial scored in United’s first two matches and picked up an assist in the third, where he also picked up a hamstring injury. His ability to make something out of nothing, particularly from distance, is a massive asset against a team as strong defensively as Liverpool. Wan-Bissaka missed his side’s loss at Newcastle United with tonsillitis.

Both would drastically affect which battles we also find key to this match, with their pace and prowess out wide the Red Devils’ most likely avenue to keeping Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson on their toes.

Martial’s return would be especially big. With Marcus Rashford on a terrible run of inconsistency, you don’t know what you’re going to get from the youngster. Martial can only help alleviate the burden.