Huddersfield 0-1 Liverpool: Mohamed Salah’s first-half strike ensures Jurgen Klopp’s side keep pace with Manchester City at the top of the table
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring for the visitors in the 24th minute of the Premier League encounter
Huddersfield’s Jonathan Hogg hit the post and Alex Pritchard saw his goal ruled out for offside in the first half
Salah had the chance to double Liverpool’s lead in the second half but his effort traveled wide of the post
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was taken off at half time, while Adam Lallana returned to starting XI
Bill Shankly was Huddersfield Town’s manager on the last occasion they beat Liverpool and the last player to find the net against the same opponents spent his summers playing county cricket for Leicestershire. The omens had never looked good.
But beyond the resignation that the Premier League’s second tier always feel about games like this, David Wagner could rue the fact that his side failed to beat a Liverpool side who were a shadow of their best. The look on his face told its own story when Steve Mounie blasted high into the stand after opportunity knocked, ten minutes from time.
For the winning team, that is of no significance, of course. It was another win quietly secured, equalling the best start to a Premier League season. Their ability to extract it – and go second – with far less than the blood and thunder of last season adds to the impression that pragmatism has replaced idealism where Klopp is concerned. The pay-back may be less exhaustion come the title run-in.
The noise they bring to this place is the most extraordinary part. The stadium had not seen a Premier League goal since April 14 yet it bounced with unquenchable belief. The club will need every ounce of that because they patently lack a goal-scorer.
There was energy from the start, the technical intelligence of pocket midfielder Alex Pritchard and the presence and vision of Danish centre half Philip Billing. Yet when the moment seemed about to present itself, the six-yard box was empty.
It meant that – to return to a theme which has become familiar this season – Liverpool could reach the ascendancy while considerably less than their best. Klopp had his eye on the week ahead, with Red Star Belgrade at Anfield on Wednesday, and left Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino on the bench. The side who went to work were often a few yards off the pace of a first half which they only just about edged.
Subs not used: Mignolet, Origi, Matip, Alexander-Arnold
Referee: M. Oliver 7
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in the 24th minute.
The 24th minute goal which sent them ahead was that first period’s only moment of class. Joe Gomez was the originator, taking down a ball across midfield from James Milner, locating Xherdan Shaqiri with a pass of outstanding vision which allowed the Swiss to find Mohamed Salah in the penalty box right hand channel. The Egyptian’s pace and finish, on the acute, were too much for the desperately retreating Christopher Schindler.
But the goal could not obscure that this was a Liverpool with the intensity taken out. Salah’s goal tally – five in ten – is hardly that of a forward in existential crisis. But his first touch is so frequently heavy this season. Daniel Sturridge, in for Firmino, contributed painfully little to the first half and did not look like he carried any resolve. So much for the notion, after his equaliser at Chelsea, that he is a player reborn. The forward’s lofted effort early in the second half sailed high.
Klopp’s experiment extended to deploying Adam Lallana for his first Premier League start since New Year’s Day. There were intermittent signs of his exquisite touch but of those presented with an opportunity to step up from edges, only Shaqiri seized the night.
David Wagner’s players did more of the pressing and after Liverpool had gone ahead they looked like they might break back into the game. Jonathan Hogg struck a right foot shot from 30 yards which struck the outside of the left upright.
Milner diced with calamity when a Billing header flew to his thigh and struck his outstretched arm, provoking loud penalty appeals. Pritchard slotted a ball beyond Alisson but was adjudged fractionally offside. Both decisions seemed correct.
There was something slightly discomfiting about the stadium announcer’s angle on things at half-time. ‘We’ve just gone to toe for 45 minutes with a team who were in the final of the Champions League.’ Huddersfield don’t not want to consider themselves minnows.
Liverpool striker Sturridge in action as the Reds looked to maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League season
Liverpool did have further chances as the afternoon wore on. Sturridge found Salah with a good diagonal ball – his best contribution of the evening. The No 11 could not find a firm connection after he took the ball down on his chest. Substitute Roberto Firmino also fired over from the edge of the box when he had time and space to select his shot.
But Hudderfield were the ones who created the best chances of the second half. Chris Lowe departed off down the right and crossed for Laurent Depoitre, whose effort brought a sharp save out of Alllison. Full-back Flaurent Hadergjonaj also located Depoitre from the same flank but his finish was tame. He did not look like he believed he could finish. Then came the Mounie skied chance, after Dejan Lovren’s casual attempt to block a low cross was poor.
The new metric of ‘passing rate’ has recently entered the discussion of Liverpool’s football. It is the number of passages of play when the opposition fail to complete three passes in a row – and in the incarnation we have seen this season they are the division’s ninth best. Only one number matters of course. 23 points. No other Premier League side has more.