HOLD on while I dust off my template opening for most Liverpool games over the last few years.
Something something unlucky. Something else poor finishing. Something or other incredible opposition goalkeeping, and then also sloppy goal conceded. Blah blah blah beer in my belly.
It was another frustrating night of not conceding much in the way of chances, having an absolute bucketload of our own, and somehow scoring the same number of goals as them. The Reds had 64 per cent possession and four times as many shots as Spartak Moscow. The cramp-riddled Russians held out for a draw during the four minutes of time the ball was in play in the second half, and Liverpool are already left with a bit of a hill to climb if they want to win the group.
By the way I’ve tried very hard to avoid making any tasteless Soviet Union puns thus far, so I hope you all appreciate that.
Anyway, enough Stalin, here’s my Marx out of 10:
Loris Karius: 4
OK, I have a theory. Karius struggles to save things with his hands for Liverpool, but had a reputation for being a saving machine in the Bundesliga. My theory is that at Mainz they allowed him to stop shots with a simple look of Blue Steel, like when Ben Stiller halts the shuriken in mid air in Zoolander. Dreadful on the goal, otherwise rarely needed, thankfully. One slight thing in his defence, his mistake shouldn’t have mattered. It should have been a smudge on a 5-1 victory.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7
I liked Trenty tonight. Did well in both directions largely, and always seemed to offer a threat running from deep. Unlucky with his early chance and his passing wasn’t always the best, but certainly looked like he was well over his Manchester City nightmare.
Joel Matip: 6
A quiet night for him to be honest. Wasn’t massively called upon to do anything more than clean up bits, and again he looked pretty tidy in possession. Still wish we could see more from him in an offensive sense. Used to average five goals a season at Schalke.
Dejan Lovren: 7
Not sure whether Klopp had had a word after his poor outing on Saturday, but it was much improved from Dejan tonight. Oddly calm and assured in most things he did, wasn’t caught making rash tackles or lashing the ball into touch. Showed a mental control that he needs to show more.
Alberto Moreno: 7
Really starting to like Albie again. Before I liked him just for his mischievous little face, always imagining it should really be covered in chocolate and biscuit crumbs, but then fell out with him after Basel. He’s now putting in the sort of performances that we hoped he would when he arrived from Sevilla. A great outlet down the left, linked up superbly with Sadio Mane again and played some really good passes to start attacks.
Jordan Henderson: 8
Another excellent showing from the skipper. Can sometimes be too ready to whip that outswinging ball into the box but when he gets it just right it can be a real weapon. As with Saturday he was here, there and everywhere in Moscow, and it’s much needed in that engine room.
Emre Can: 5
What isn’t much needed is Emre putting in that kind of performance. When Henderson was doing all the hard work, Emre was largely undoing it, giving the ball away in silly moments, including the buildup to their goal. Settled into the game a bit as it went on, but wasn’t missed once subbed for Gini Wijnaldum.
Philippe Coutinho: 7
The freekick given against him was harsh, and he redeemed himself with a really well taken goal. Still feels like he’s not quite at full bar, but was still a big influence on the game. His quality just oozes out of him at times, including for the goal, and if he can keep on this trajectory he should be relatively unstoppable over the coming weeks and months.
Sadio Mane: 8
Asda’s favourite son, Mane was at his brilliant best again tonight, terrorising Spartak with his usual running, dribbling and movement. Lovely one two with Phil for the goal and it felt like one could have been on its way in the second half, but then he got subbed.
Mohamed Salah: 7
He’s just always in the game. Even when he’s 90 yards away from it you know a short time later it could be at his feet or on his head. He’s just always there, in the peripheral vision of everything. No idea how he doesn’t get on the scoresheet tonight. Deserved a goal, probably two, but thwarted by poor crosses, offsides and weirdly flexible goalkeepers.
Roberto Firmino: 6
Arrgh. I love you Bobby, but putting the ball in the net when you should really put the ball in the net would make it far easier to love you more. Like Salah, should have scored at least a couple.
Interestingly worked well as a 10 after Sturridge came on. I say interesting because I dream of a day when Firmino is indeed a 10, with a 30-goal a season striker ahead of him. Yes I’m greedy, but with all the focus on Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Romelu Lukaku and Alexandre Lacazette of late — and games like tonight where we need 1,000 chances to score — make me wonder what we could be with our own.
But again, that would all be easily forgotten if Bobby would just finish those simple chances in games where we need him to. Chin up though, it’ll come.
Daniel Sturridge: 6
Could in theory be that 30-goal a season man were his fitness guaranteed. Showed his quality when he came on again but was unfortunate not to be able to play with the man he replaced, Mane, and missed a really good chance to win it right at the end.
Gini Wijnaldum: 6
Was better than the man he replaced, Can, but still didn’t provide enough to make much of an impact. Might have to get used to being utilised as a sub now that the awesome foursome are all able to play together.
Sick of not actually winning games that we absolutely won on points, but you’ve just got to believe that eventually it’s going to click regularly and teams are going to get smashed to teeny tiny bits on a weekly basis.
That said, we’re still well on course for qualification. Liverpool will absolutely dick these at Anfield, and Maribor don’t seem up to much either judging by their humbling at Sevilla tonight. Nine points in those games sees us through, and a big night in Seville should determine who comes top. Still a lot of footie to be played and Gazprom to be lit.
I’m choosing optimism, especially as I have a big announcement on the horizon in the coming days (he says mysteriously)…