Never in doubt.
Two changes for the Tricky Reds this afternoon, with Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota coming in for Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino. This meant that Harvey Elliott was given the chance to continue his impressive start to the season and that our Brazilian contingent were allowed to play after all, despite the handbags earlier in the week.
The atmosphere at Elland Road was certainly lively and so was the start, with both teams playing at a good tempo and looking to get forward quickly. Salah, whose every touch was booed by the home supporters, appeared to be bundled over but no foul was awarded- quelle surprise- and the subsequent Leeds counterattack saw Rodrigo fire straight at Alisson when he really should have sidefooted home.
Mané tried to thread it through to Elliott when Salah was open to his right; Trent picked Harrison’s pocket and fizzed the ball across towards Jota, who didn’t quite reach it for a potential tap-in.
Matip then surged forward and fed Trent, whose low ball into the near post was finished by Mo. Sadio, standing behind him, was offside but the Egyptian was just about level with the last defender, so it was 1-0 to the good guys in the twentieth minute. This meant Mo has now scored one hundred Premier League goals, with the first two of those coming for Chelsea.
Five minutes later, the visitors again had the ball in the back of the net as Thiago headed home Mo’s cross at the far post, but the goal was correctly disallowed due to the Egyptian’s being offside.
Mané fired over when he should have scored; Jota had a shot blocked; Elliott was thwarted by Meslier. The resulting corner saw an unmarked Virgil fluff his lines and Leeds were finally able to get a breather, after a period of intense Liverpool pressure, as Bamford broke but Alisson cleared comfortably.
Llorente was awarded a yellow card after pulling back Jota and this, following Cooper’s earlier pull on Mané, meant that both of the home side’s centre halves were on a caution by the half-hour mark.
The Spanish centre half didn’t last much longer, as he limped off with an apparent hamstring problem and was replaced by Struijk.
Trent rolled Firpo and could have driven into the box but instead squared it to Elliott on the edge of the box; the youngster’s shot rolled harmlessly wide. Leeds had a decent penalty shout for handball against Elliott declined (it definitely fell into the “I’ve seen them given” category) and Trent fired a free kick from a promising position straight into the wall.
Ayling arrived late, unmarked, at the far post but could only knee the ball over. Mané tried to wriggle through on the edge of the Leeds box but slightly overran the ball; that was the last action of the first half.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, the visitors had clearly been the better side, and should have been out of sight, but Leeds had shown that they were capable of threatening and, really, should have taken the lead with Rodrigo’s early effort.
The second stanza started with the visitors on the front foot and Sadio appeared to be clipped from behind in the area but a corner of was awarded instead of a penalty. Virgil’s header from Trent’s outswinging delivery eventually fell to Fabinho, who stabbed home from five yards. After a lengthy and, in my opinion, completely unnecessary VAR review for a possible offside, the goal stood. 2-0 to the Tricky Reds in the fiftieth minute.
Roberts spurned two get chances to get the home side back into the game, firstly heading straight at Alisson and then shooting tamely wide a few minutes later.
Struijk slid in hard and late on Elliott as the youngster threatened to burst clear on the halfway line; the defender was eventually shown a red card after a VAR review but the absence of any replays (bloody snowflake generation) made it impossible to see what actually happened. After a lengthy period of treatment on the pitch, Harvey was stretchered off (replaced by Henderson) and it looks like he may be out for some time.
The reduction of the home side to ten men killed any prospect of a Leeds revival and the serious nature of Elliott’s injury took the gloss off the game; Trent shot straight at Meslier, before Ayling blocked Mané’s effort and Mo curled over. Raphinha broke clear and attempted to find Bamford but our bearded Brazilian intervened.
Mané wasted a couple more chances- he really has forgotten how to finish- and Bamford almost caught out Alisson with a spectacular effort from the halfway circle; fortunately, Ali managed to claw the ball over as he back-pedalled furiously. Ox replaced Jota for the last ten minutes and then Thiago set up Mané for the third goal in the third minute of stoppage time. That was the Spanish international’s last contribution, as Baby replaced him for the last five minutes of stoppage time.
And that was that. A comfortable win in the end but we were, once again, profligate in front of goal and the injury to young Elliott was obviously a sickener. Still, ten points from twelve with only one goal conceded represents a very solid start to the season.
Next up is the opening of our latest Champions League campaign with the visit of our old friends AC Milan to Anfield on Wednesday evening. This Rossoneri side is a pale imitation of the one we faced in those finals fifteen years ago; they still pose a threat, but I’d be disappointed if we didn’t brush them aside comfortably enough.
MOTM: The Sisters Of Mercy. Went to my first gig since before Coronavirus struck last night and it was well worth the wait. Absolutely brilliant stuff from Andrew Eldritch and chums at the Roundhouse in Kentish Town. And my pre-concert meal wasn’t bad, either.