Liverpool’s startling blend of pace, energy and teamwork claims its latest victim in Hull City
Liverpool 5 Hull City 1
Man of the Match: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
When James Milner converted his second penalty of the afternoon, it was Liverpool’s fifth goal of the game and their 16th of the Premier League season. Not one has come from the player operating as the designated striker.
It is an extraordinary statistic, illustrating Jurgen Klopp’s ethos and underlining the transformation of a team. There is an emphasis on the collective at Anfield, an example of what players with a mutual emphasis on pace, energy, quality and teamwork can achieve when allied with each other.
They had already proved capable of winning at Chelsea and Arsenal and of beating Leicester City. Now the champions’ conquerors Hull City were put to the sword in what is becoming familiar, but remains startling, fashion.
“The first half was brilliant,” said Klopp, grinning a 100-yard grin. “That was how football should be.” It was his vision. High-speed players converge infield with a blur of attacking midfielders. They assault opponents from the start, charging into leads. Routs are becoming commonplace. “Liverpool are flying,” said Hull caretaker-manager Mike Phelan.
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He watched as Liverpool scored five times. Klopp, who turns his back when his side have penalties, only saw three of their goals, but they included a special strike from Philippe Coutinho and two instances of slick combination play.
Liverpool’s opener bore certain similarities with their first goal against Leicester. That, too, stemmed from the left flank and involved Milner. On both occasions, a forward dragged defenders out of position with a decoy run and Roberto Firmino’s unselfishness bore dividends as Coutinho was able to find Adam Lallana. He found the corner of the net.
There was a second sense of déjà vu. Hull have been depleted by half-time in successive weeks, each for the same reason. Like Jake Livermore against Arsenal, Ahmed Elmohamady was deemed guilty of deliberate handball. He had executed one goalline clearance to deny Coutinho entirely legally. A second involved use of his right arm, the Egyptian fullback was expelled and the reliable Milner converted the penalty. “No qualms,” Phelan said. “The rules are there.”
It left Hull’s 10 men with an impossible task. Even when Sadio Mane struck the bar, it only kept him off the scoresheet for a few minutes. The Senegalese forward fired in a low shot after accepting a pass from Lallana, who had the confidence to execute a Cruyff turn before finding his colleague. If Mane has started to personify Liverpool, in both his pace and his relentlessness, Lallana embodies their improvement under Klopp.
After his first game, a 0-0 draw at Tottenham, the German said that Lallana could be 20-30 per cent better. He is now, a decisive, driving force who was deservedly afforded a standing ovation. He has added the goals his game long lacked.
Coutinho has been encouraged to shoot more by Klopp. It has resulted in a flurry of memorable goals. The latest was bent in from 30 yards. “He always scores like this,” Klopp said.
David Marshall was given no chance. The Scot, signed from Cardiff at the end of the transfer window, had the busiest of league debuts. He made several fine saves, but retrieved the ball from his net five times. The last came courtesy of Milner’s second penalty, won by Daniel Sturridge, who was confined to a cameo.
The tireless Firmino was preferred, just as Loris Karius displaced the dropped Simon Mignolet in goal. The newcomer was both powerless and blameless when David Meyler pulled a goal back for Hull, but he was one of five Klopp signings in the starting XI. The winds of change are blowing at a blustery Anfield, and Hull, a bogey side of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool, were swept away in a tornado.
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Published: September 24, 2016 04:00 AM