A roller coaster of emotions was the common trend of Liverpool fans on social media after the Reds beat Chelsea on penalties to win the UEFA Super Cup for a fourth time on Wednesday, but it certainly wasn’t a straightforward affair.
It’s always nice to start off the season with winning a trophy, despite the fact the Reds lost the Community Shield to Manchester City, it was great to see them bounce back despite the humidity and with extra time to contend with as well.
The fallout has been interesting to say the least, especially at half-time. Liverpool had gone with their usual setup and attempted to make “like-for-like” switches into certain positions in order to experiment with their squad depth. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in on the right wing and Joe Gomez filling in at right back, which could not have been more disastrous. The Reds were torn apart and they were deservedly behind at the break, despite being tipped by some to win comfortably. Chelsea’s Pedro was causing all sorts of problems and Gomez was left to fend for himself while Ox attempted to track back. Chelsea’s counter attacks were proving effective.
It’s understandable why Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp decided to switch it up, but I believe that he genuinely underestimated the quality of Chelsea’s youngsters. Particularly Mason Mount who came out the blocks flying and linked up brilliantly with the likes of Pedro and Giroud to get Chelsea off the mark early doors.
The second half was much better, but the Reds faded as it progressed, with Sadio Mane getting on the score sheet in superb fashion. Roberto Firmino coming on at half time completely changed the game and the Reds looked so much more comfortable building from the back and playing balls through the middle. The midfield had real issues getting possession to the front men in the first half and it was majorly down to being pressed and intercepted quickly. Firmino’s pace and vision took a bit of pressure off the midfield and fullbacks as the likes of Henderson and Robertson could drive forward and supply crosses to the front men.
The game realistically could have been about 4-4 before penalties. Somehow Virgil van Dijk was denied by a double save from Kepa in the Chelsea sticks and Tammy Abraham somehow put the ball wide from five yards just before the penalty shootout.
But ultimately, it was Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian who was the real hero, despite conceding a penalty in extra time in what looked like a dive from Chelsea’s No. 9, he stepped up and saved his penalty in the shootout in what turned out to be the winning moment which secured Liverpool silverware. It was a long night, and it was around 12:45am local time by the time the match came to an end, let’s dissect the game piece by piece.
What did we learn?
Joe Gomez, as effective as he can be in the fullback role, was badly exposed. Especially without the supporter from the winger on that side, it was always going to be difficult to keep Pedro on a leash. It’s clear that Jurgen Klopp wants to include Gomez in his plans, but it also seems that Virgil van Dijk has officially found his long-term centre back partner in Joel Matip. Trent Alexander-Arnold is Liverpool’s benchmark right back and Gomez has a way to go to reach that level.
It’s also pretty clear that Liverpool looked short in the striking department without the presence of Roberto Firmino, which certainly is a concern going forward. Players like the Brazilian are very hard to come by and there are very few like for like False 9s in world football at this time, any injury for him would be a huge blow and would perhaps require a complete change of system.
This might be breaking news to some people, but I believe this has to be said, women can actually referee. That’s right. Stephanie Frappart took charge of the European Final and it was the first time that a female official took charge in a men’s finale. She put in a great performance, Frappart and her assistants got the majority of her decisions correct but did not receive much help from VAR. Chelsea were given one of the softest penalties in years and VAR should have stepped in and ruled it out. But still, it’s early days for the video assistant referees to get this new software right and it will take probably half the season to troubleshoot. But for now, let’s hope that this event was a learning curve.
Adrian was a free agent just ten days ago after Simon Mignolet departed to join Club Brugges, and really stepped up to the plate. The Spaniard made some great saves and really did look like a suitable but temporary replacement for the injured Alisson, who is recovering from a calf injury. But this is just the start for him, consistency is now his next step as he looks like he will be starting regularly until at least October when Liverpool’s No. 1 returns, and this is a great opportunity for him to showcase his talent.
Also, Jurgen Klopp’s Rocky impression is so bad, it’s good.