Never in doubt.
A much-changed line up, then, for the visit of the supposed Group D whipping boys to Anfield; although the back five remained the same as that on show against Sheffield United last weekend, the normal front three were rested and there were rare starts for Milner, Shaqiri, Minamino and Origi. Taki started through the middle, perhaps surprisingly, with Big Div to his left and our new Portuguese forward on the right. A midfield featuring Milly and Shaqs in front of Hendo did not look the most defensive on paper; it was to be hoped that we weren’t taking the visiting Danish champions too lightly.
Dreyer almost started the night off with a bang for the visitors, but Alisson was able to thwart him in the third minute but that was honestly about it as far as action went in the opening forty five minutes.
I suppose that it was little surprise that we looked so disjointed during a first half that was memorable only for yet another injury, this time to Fabinho. It looked like a muscle injury of some sort and at least he was able to walk off the pitch; Rhys Williams came in alongside Joe Gomez and generally did well.
The only other notable aspect of a particularly tedious first half was the rashness of the Midtjylland challenges; I would have expected better of them but it appears that the whole of Europe has decided that they can’t outplay the Tricky Reds so they might as well just kick us instead.
Things could only get better in the second half… couldn’t they? Klopp decided to take off Henderson and bring on Wijnaldum… perhaps as the captain has only just returned from injury himself, as intimated by the manager before the match.
Jota almost set up Taki and then Dreyer beat Robertson but crossed to the invisible man (no, not Gini) before the Reds finally broke the deadlock ten minutes into the second half, with Jota tucking home after neat interplay between Trent and Shaqs. It was the ten thousandth goal in this club’s illustrious history; to be honest, it was scarcely deserved on our showing tonight.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Mané. Sadio and Mo replaced the ineffective duo of Taki and Div; it’s still early days in the Japanese international’s Anfield career but it would appear that the cult hero Belgian is nearing the end of his.
Shaqs looked a different player once our first-choice forwards were alongside him, showing some brilliant technique and flair. If he can stay fit, he can be a valuable option from the bench or if any of our main four forwards (Jota must already be included with the usual three) is unavailable.
The rest of the game petered out into a snoozefest; Bobby should have wrapped things up in the 87th minute after Trent found him unmarked twelve yards out, but the Brazilian could only blaze over. Fortunately, Mo did finally seal the three points as we entered stoppage time as he converted a penalty with aplomb having been tripped by Paulinho in the box. The goal made the scoreline look more comfortable than the game actually was.
Anyway, six points out of six sets us up nicely for our next two group stage games against Atalanta; four points from those two fixtures and we’ll be more or less through to the knockout stages.
MOTM: whoever invented the Pot Noodle. Fed up with the envious glances cast this way by @Alright_Now whenever I have a highfalutin’ French meal, I thought I’d raise a glass to the creator of the greatest snack known to man.
Admittedly, it was a glass of 1985 Chateau Lynch Bages, but so what?