A routine outing that ends up being better and more exciting than the vast majority of those played in the recently concluded world cup?
Premier League, it’s good to have you back.
It was also rather nervy for long stretches, before chaos agent Darwin Nunez created an opportunity that youngster Stefan Bajcetic buried with the coolness and guile of a Mo Salah between the legs of Mings. He thereby also ended Aston Villa’s surge back from being two down at the end of the half. I had no idea the Spaniard was this composed in front of goal, which made it a special treat. Salah himself opened the scoring, after an astonishing outside-of-the-foot pass from Trent to Robbo, who then delivered a perfectly weighted assist with the coolness of an ice crystal. Later, Salah assisted the second to a delighted (and somewhat surprised) Van Dijk after his remarkably composed shot went in at the far post.
See a trend here?
In fact, the only one that broke ranks in terms of composure was the very same Nunez, who could have easily nabbed himself a hat-trick and a couple of assists on the side. He still caused the Villa defense plenty of headaches, but his greatest failure wasn’t even in finishing, but rather in his decision making. His choices of when to shoot and when to pass in this game seemed to end up tails every single time. Is it confidence? His world cup performance was similarly erratic.
Regardless, the game was end-to-end and fun to watch, especially if you were neutral. I am anything but, and so I spent a fair amount of time in that Liverpool anxiety we have come to accept as our special state of existence. Did any of you feel nervous when Keita came onboard? I sure did, but he ended up doing fine. Then Klopp decides to end the game with three youngsters whose combined age barely eclipses that of James Milner… and one of them hammers the nail in the Villa coffin, so what do I know.
I’ll tell you what, though. The Reds absorbed a lot of pressure from a quite talented side today, who is looking rather well in this early Unai Emery era, and leaked only one goal. So in a way, the defense did quite well, even as it felt like a struggle. Chief amongst those who kept that number down was my man-of-the-match. No, not Van Dijk, even with his goal. Nor Robbo, who had a terrific game. Not Trent, although he sure owned the first twenty minutes of the match and did anything he goddamn pleased. No. Instead, I pick the Giraffe; Joel Matip was immense in being in the right spot at the right time and doing so calmly, efficiently, and most importantly, consistently.
With that world cup in the middle, it’s gonna be a crazy season, and every win is to be celebrated. Welcome back, Liverpool.
I missed ya.