On Wednesday, Liverpool’s weakest links were indiscernible from its high-flying stars.
The Reds stunned Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, and amid the goal-scoring exploits of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were stellar performances from Jurgen Klopp’s supporting cast.
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There’s a reason that Klopp made a beeline for Trent Alexander-Arnold at the final whistle. The local boy – who’s just 19 years old – looked like a melange of Cafu and Javier Zanetti against City, and for a player who’s occasionally received criticism for positional awareness, Alexander-Arnold was class. The England youth international repeatedly snuffed out Leroy Sane’s probing attacks, making four tackles, seven interceptions, and 10 clearances. Anfield has a new hero.
Forget the redundant comparisons to his time at Arsenal, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is now playing the most inspired football of his career. So, when he latched onto a rocket of a pass from James Milner to beat a helpless Ederson from distance, it was deserved. Tasked with filling out a three-man midfield alongside Milner and Jordan Henderson, The Ox was stunning, completing 90 percent of his passes and four dribbles going forward, with three tackles, two successful aerial duels, and three key interceptions in a effective two-way role.
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Here’s a list of the last three players to record seven or more assists in a Champions League campaign: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar, James Milner. Thrusted into the starting XI, perhaps because Gini Wijnaldum was quite ordinary on the weekend, or perhaps because Milner’s near-robotic efficiency is the staple of a successful European competitor, the 32-year-old was businesslike in assisting Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal while throwing in five tackles, four clearances, and three interceptions. Decent outing, that.
What a pleasant surprise Andrew Robertson has been. Lured to Anfield in the summer from Hull City for a modest £8-million fee, the Scot has been one of the Premier League’s best full-backs, and on Wednesday, his form carried over to the Champions League. A veritable threat going forward with a penchant for an early pinpoint cross, Robertson, 24, negated Ilkay Gundogan and combined well with Milner while making four tackles and eight clearances for good measure. Manchester City offered nothing in wide positions, and Robertson and companion Alexander-Arnold deserve heaps of praise.