The Giraffe and the Understudies
What a lovely start to the season, eh?
My hat’s off to Sean Dyche yet again; what he has been doing with the Clarets is no less than astonishing, and even though they were ultimately dominated by the Reds today, they showed up and surely gave it a proper fight. But that’s enough about them. The way this game unfolded, Liverpool had it in control the whole time, even if the end result feels a bit anaemic. Were Salah’s toes not a smidge too long, we would have replicated the result from last week’s opener. This would have reflected affairs better and left no doubt about the signal coming from Anfield about the intent to reclaim the title – that of fortress.
And perhaps that other one as well.
For his part, Alisson made sure of that with another catlike save into the last stretch, just like he did last week. The man seems hell-bent on winning that golden glove again, and he might just do it, seeing as there is now a proper defensive line in front of him. Van Dijk started hesitantly and then grew into the game, just like he did last week, but it was the ultimate Giraffe, as my friend Bickler likes to call him, that really owned those earnest white shirts. Give Joel Matip his due; he is absolutely terrific when he is healthy, and has his own version of being Bobby, as you just can never know what weird and wonderful thing he is about to do when he isn’t busy mopping up.
In fact, Matip was so good that I would have given him my man-of-the-match award, except for an 18-year-old who also happened to play in this game. Harvey Elliott antagonized the opposition to the point where it felt like he might start to give one Jack Grealish a proper fight for the title of most fouled player in the league. If the kid keeps going at this rate, he is bound to cause many a cluster migraine to centerbacks everywhere. He is so tricky, so clever, so explosive, and so impossible to contain, that I simply cannot wait for him to get his feet under him in terms of experience. That pass for Salah’s disallowed goal was merely one gorgeous moment in a game full of them. I really don’t think Burnley expected this from him.
I don’t know if even Klopp did.
But wait. I would have given it to him, except that yet another player rose head, shoulders, chest and midriff above all expectations. Last week, Kostas Tsimikas looked lively and a proper understudy for Andrew Robertson. After today’s game, I am starting to wonder whether he might simply be a rival for an opening lineup position that previously felt inscribed in stone. Where and how did he grow so much as a player? What did they do to him at Kirkby? The Greek was everywhere, constantly busying himself with disrupting and creating at a metronomic pace, and his gorgeous assist for Jota’s opener stood out even more for simply being yet another incredible cross. Trent was remarkable as ever on the other side, and got an assist as well, but we expect this of him; for Tsimikas to put in a shift like this is worthy of extra praise, so he’s my man-of-the-match in this game.
Oh, and Mane got one. May it put him back on the path to confident finishing.
Liverpool really will become irresistible then.