Liverpool edged out Leeds United 4-3 at Anfield on the opening day of the Premier League season.
Mohamed Salah was the hero with a hat-trick, Virgil van Dijk scoring the Reds’ other – but the defender was also at fault for one of Leeds’ three equalising goals.
Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich notched for the promoted side, but they couldn’t quite keep out the champions.
It was an entertaining game which showcased the positives from both teams in possession, but also pointed where improvements might come.
Here are five things we learned from Anfield.
Liverpool show their strengths…and weaknesses
This was the hallmark of champions: confident, clinical, dangerous, plenty of movement, pace and chances.
In the attacking half, at least.
Defensively the Reds were the opposite, with the same individual sloppiness as was seen at the end of last term and an unnecessary amount of open space left for Leeds to counter-attack in.
Jurgen Klopp will know he won’t be able to rely on solely his attack winning matches every week and the run of clean sheets which typified their form last season needs to make a quick return.
Not quite Leeds’ dream return
It looked, for a while, as though Leeds would mark their return to the top flight with a significant scalp of sorts.
Only Burnley, very late on last season, took points from Liverpool at Anfield, and but for a silly late challenge from Rodrigo the Championship winners of last season might have done the same on the opening day here.
Marcelo Bielsa will doubtless be happy with many aspects of the team’s performance, and see other areas for considerable improvement.
It was a quick and brutal lesson that life at this level is unforgiving and pays no heed to would-be storylines.
Perhaps we saw here an element of a shortened pre-season: teams not yet as solid as they would usually hope to be, not having had as much time to set the defensive lines in pre-season as in a normal year.
Fewer friendlies, fewer training sessions in general and a fragmented week before the season due to players being away on international duty – it all combined, perhaps, to have both these sides somewhat scattered with their defensive lines out of possession.
Playing out of the back is the standard for both Liverpool and Leeds, but concentration was lacking in general defensive basics, with clearances, holding the line and aerial duels all sloppy from both sides.
When Virgil van Dijk is making an error as simple as the one he did here, it’s clear the mindset or rhythm isn’t quite at 100 per cent.
Salah starts on fire
Liverpool’s top scorer in league play last season, Mo Salah already looks in the mood to up his scoring stats once more.
He wasn’t overly sharp in pre-season and ended last year with a frustrating run of form, but here he was lightning with his movement and utterly clinical in the box.
A first shot led to the penalty, which he dispatched, before his brace put the Reds ahead with an absolute rocket into the top corner. Later another penalty, coolly taken in the closing stages, showed his consistency and composure.
An early marker laid down for his Golden boot challengers.
Midfield choices tell their own tale
All the talk in the build-up to this season, as far as Liverpool goes, had been over Gini Wijnaldum leaving and Thiago Alcantara coming in.
As it happened, the Dutchman was the only Reds midfielder to play a full 90 minutes on the opening day, perhaps dampening expectations that he’s set for a quick exit.
Notably, Fabinho was left out having usually been a mainstay of Klopp’s team, while Curtis Jones was given the nod off the bench ahead of options including James Milner and Takumi Minamino.
The youngster looks set for a huge season if he continues to improve and Klopp might have given some clues on a newly arranged order of preference in the centre of the park in this match.
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