As expected Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp made a number of change to his Liverpool team for the League Cup game against Burton Albion from the team that lost to Burnley at the weekend in the Premier League. In came Joel Matip, Emre Can, Sadio Mané and Divock Origi to Liverpool’s starting line up.
Overall the changes in midfield give more stability to the system with Can staying deep and providing that screen in front of our back four which in fairness were underworked during the first half. Apart that is from a challenge just inside the box from Dejan Lovren that could have been penalised but as so it occurred so early in the game as often happens he got away with it.
Going forward Liverpool looked a lot more direct and faster mostly due to the impact of Mané who seemed to be able to beat his man with ease and cause chaos between the lines. With Nathaniel Clyne providing an outlet from defence, the right side of midfield was a constant outlet and feed for Liverpool’s attack.
Liverpool fans did not have to wait long before it paid of when after 15 minutes of quick short passing and pressure, the ball was moved from one side of the pitch to the other, with James Milner making the run inside and was able to dig out and intelligent cross at the second attempt, the ball landed at Mané’s feet as he killed it dead and with a fleeting drag pulled the ball past the defender enough to cross low and hard across the goal line to be easily back heeled in by the returning Origi.
More chances were created from the same outlet of Mané and now Adam Lallana came and went until on 22 mins a clumsy throw out from Bywater in the Burton goal was easily intercepted by Mané and he played in Clyne straight away on his side. An example of how Clyne has been forward in this game all half. His inch perfect floated cross was met in the box by the head of Roberto Firmino who seemed to have one of his better games against Burton.
It was all too easy for Liverpool in the first half and with a 2-0 lead already built up this game looked all but over and definitely should have been after Adam Lallana missed a gilt edged chance to head in form 2 yards oit and totally free somehow manages to put it wide. A glaring miss. As half time approached Mané again found himself chasing a high ball into the box for which he looked favourite to land but was caught on the back of his leg by the defender bringing the ball down.
A certain penalty shout that that fell on deaf ears with the referee. Mané again was down for a minute looking like he was injured but was soon up to shake it off.Thankfully he was the spark that lit up the first half. which was a dominant display from the away team who created chances at will.
So into the second half with no changes yet from Klopp, Burton come out with a spark and some possession early stages. Pressing and keeping the ball better but without any clear chances they give up a corner to Liverpool on 61 minutes. Milner got a good corner into the danger area which after being flicked on at the near post by Emre Can rebounds in off the hip of Naylor for an own goal while he was trying to keep Origi at bay.
Harsh on Burton at this point on the game but deserved for Liverpool and with substitutes already out warming up its only a matter of time before Klopp made his changes with the game seemingly won on the hour mark.
Two minutes after the third goal was scored, a simple ball over the top of the Liverpool defence allowed Akin to take the ball on his chest and drive a shot towards Simon Mignolet’s goal. Thankfully the shot was high and wide to the right but the shot was a warning for Liverpool not to lose concentration.
Om 64 minutes Liverpool made their first substitutions, Georginio Winjaldum came in to the game replacing Adam Lallana who had a better game tonight then he did at the weekend and Daniel Sturridge came on to replace Firmino.
Emre Can picked up an injury in the second half which looked like a bad one judging by his reaction and while receiving treatment on it pitch side Jurgen Klopp was so worried he watched the incident played back to him on the side lone by a member of staff on a tablet. Obviously knowing a bad injury to Can would be a massive blow to his plans and as a result Klopp took Can off a minute later replacing him with Kevin Stewart.
At this stage both Sturridge and Winjaldum were looking impressive having come in and looked sharp straight away, Sturridge in particular.
On 77 mins when Stewart broke up play in midfield he fed the ball to Milner who coming through the centre played a clean one two with Mané on the edge of the box. Mané puts him in behind the defence and Milner makes no mistake in crossing the ball yet again this time for Sturridge to tap in to an empty net.
Sturridge was dangerous but Milner and Mané in particular were running the game and decisive when the chances presented themselves.
Goal number 5 followed quickly, again finished off by Sturridge but created by Mané on the wing who’s inch perfect slide pass to the feet of Sturridge, Sturridge drove his resulting shot low and hard to the goalkeepers left. Incisive play and notably started from Joel Matip again coming to the half way line with the ball at his feet and playing Mané down the line easily.
Matip was impressive throughout the game with the ball. Confident, pushing high up and always looking to play it forward with intent even at times continuing his own run forward with the movement.
As the game came to an end Liverpool striker Divock Origi was forced to come off the pitch suffering from suspected cramp.
Sadio Mané was easily man of the match for Liverpool, his all round contribution which was electric from start to finish. The lad seems to have it all, pace guile awareness and non stop energy levels. If he stays fit he has a big season and future ahead of him at Liverpool with supplying and scoring a lot of goals.
A special mention also goes to Milner, Origi, Firmino and Sturridge when he came on..
Milner was non stop providing over laps in the right places as too did Clyne. Both drove the defence back all night. Firmino too got into the right places namely centre of the box on numerous occasions and should really have had more goals on the night.
Origi proved his game is well on the way to where it needs to be with his strength and link play and being in where it hurts also to get his goal. Daniel Sturridge stayed up top today when he came on and reaped the benets of this with 2 quickfire goals with little effort required.
As I said previously Joel Matip was hugely impressive for me although not put under much pressure all night he does look like an elegant ball playing centre half we’ve missed for a while now and his confidence on the ball providing stark contrast to the chaos of recent weeks.
On a final note about this game the absence of Phil Coutinho. No doubt rested but I found it very noticeable that in his absence we were more precise and direct around the edges of the box. Phil regularly demands the ball in these situations but all too often turns inside and away from the through balls that need to be made to break down a defence. Tonight this didn’t happen anywhere near as much. Mané and Co got ball through quick and centrally to provide clear cut chances all night.
Maybe this is something that Couthino needs to address to be truly effective in the role of chief instigator of our attack.
All in all a good night impressive in several areas but it should be remembered the level of opposition here. Still signs are good with these attacking options and hopefully things will continue in this trend in the coming games.
Written by Stephen King (@StephenKing75)