It’s been a while but… Never in doubt.
Just the one change for the Tricky Reds for tonight’s clash in beautiful Budapest, with Thiago resuming in midfield in place of the missing Milner. This, of course, meant that Henderson continued at centre half, so our best midfielder was wasted in defence yet again. With Phillips, Davies and Williams all on the bench, this particular selection made little sense to me… but I’m not the manager (just as well, really, as I would still be trying to get the best out of Le Tallec and trying to sign Joaquín from Betis).
Leipzig had been in good form, with three consecutive league wins leaving them second in the Bundesliga table behind the perennial champions, Bayern Munich. They had tested a handful of starters for last week’s victory over Augsburg and would definitely have fancied their chances here, given our current relegation form.
And it was, indeed, the hosts who started the brighter, with Olmo’s diving header from Angelino’s cross coming back off the inside of the post in the fourth minute. Having weathered the early storm, the visitors then had a couple of half chances, with Mo unable to release Bobby when in a promising position and then being denied by ex-Red Peter Gulacsi. Bobby then found the side netting and the six-times Champions of Europe were starting to find their feet.
Firmino chipped to Mané but Sadio could only head over, before Robertson- of all people- spotted Gulacsi off his line and attempted to lob him from 45 yards. With the keeper back-pedalling furiously, Robbo’s effort sailed inches over. Close but no panatella.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, it had been an entertaining and reasonably even first half. The hosts had started brighter and had a few intermittent chances but the Reds had generally controlled the game and were, perhaps, unlucky not to have been ahead.
The second stanza started with Alisson being forced into a sharp save from Nkunku, who got in behind Henderson. Then, in the 56th minute, Sabitzer carelessly conceded possession and Mo was sent clear. Gulacsi stood no chance as the Egyptian swept the ball past him with aplomb; 1-0 to the good guys.
Five minutes later, Mukiele misjudged a long ball and Sadio pounced, firing a first-time effort past the home custodian. 2-0 just before the hour mark. Mané then failed to control an exquisite through ball from Salah- it would surely have been 3-0 had he done so.
Bobby and Thiago were given the last 18 minutes off, with Shaqiri and Ox coming on in their places. Sabitzer and Angelino both sent efforts wide and the rest of the game petered out, with the Reds well in control. Hwang had a chance in stoppage time but it was missed; 2-0 it ended and the Tricky Reds were back on track.
Next up is the Merseyside Derby on Saturday evening. Let’s just say that we owe the Bitters. Big time.
MOTM: Ronan Laborde and his team at Chateau Clinet. This outstanding Pomerol continues to get better and better; it really is an outstanding expression of this famous terroir in Bordeaux and good value compared to some of its more illustrious neighbours. Ronan could have been a competitive marathon runner but opted to make fine wine instead. Sensible fellow.