Liverpool thump Leeds to reignite European hopes

After fighting back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with leaders Arsenal last time out, Liverpool travelled to Elland Road to face relegation-threatened Leeds United. The Reds have taken just 13 points from 15 games on the road this season, and on Monday night they were set to face a team placed just two points outside the bottom three, looking for an upset to boost their survival hopes.  

LEE: Meslier, Kristiansen, Koch, Struijk, Firpo, McKennie, Roca, Harrison, Aaronson, Sinisterra, Rodrigo

LIV: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Jones, Salah, Gakpo, Jota 

Unpredictable is the first word that comes to mind when you look at Leeds and Liverpool this season. The home side won the reverse fixture 2-1 in October, and remain the only side to win at Anfield in the league this season.  

However, whilst there have been fine champagne moments, the Whites have fallen back into old habits with error-strewn performances which have plundered them into a similar battle to battle for their Premier League status – much like the previous campaign. 

Smarting from the 5-1 capitulation in front of their own fans last weekend, they have been in indifferent form. Excellent victories against fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers have been mixed between thrashings from the Eagles and leaders Arsenal, shipping 14 goals in the last five games. 

Looking to solidify his leaky backline, manager Javi Gracia made two changes to his side. Fullback Rasmus Kristiansen came in for Luke Ayling, whilst in attack Rodrigo led the line – replacing Patrick Bamford who was ruled out with a groin injury. 

For Liverpool, it has been a subpar season as their struggles on the road have seen the Reds fail to keep pace with the European qualification places. Eight losses and a paltry 14 goals in 15 games underline the difficulties faced by the Anfield outfit.

Without a win in their last five league games, Jurgen Kloppp kept faith with the lineup that fought back to clinch a draw against the Gunners. Colombian Luiz Diaz was the noticeable addition to the bench after spending six months out with a knee injury. 

It was the hosts who started the brighter creating the first opening of the game. On-form midfielder Jack Harrison won possession 25 yards out before feeding forward Rodrigo with a teasing cross. The Brazilian’s firm header was sent too close to visiting goalkeeper Alisson to trouble his international compatriot. 

Liverpool settled and started to enjoy the lion’s share of possession. Mo Salah – inventive in his creativity – set up England midfielder Jordan Henderson on the right-hand side of the penalty area, and the former Sunderland midfielder’s tee-off played cleverly into the path of Cody Gakpo. The Dutchman was unable to fire his effort on target, dragging his tame shot wide of the post. 

The home side, despite lacking a majority of the ball for long spells, would be dangerous on the counter attack. The industrious Brenden Aaronson stole possession to set free the lighting pace of Luis Sinisterra. The Columbian’s touch and speed beat Konate, but his finish lacked composure and sailed high and wide of the Liverpool goal. 

Aaronson was again the instigator moments later, darting into the penalty area receiving a give-and-go from Rodrigo, before laying back to Marc Roca who drove an effort inches over the crossbar. Klopp’s side would punish the home side’s lack of composure ,as Liverpool found a rare opening in the final third to take the lead. Trent Alexander-Arnold darted past Firpo on the right-hand side to square to Gakpo, who slotted past a helpless Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal. 

Things went from bad to worse moments later for Leeds, as the visitors doubled their advantage. Diogo Jota was quickest to react to a loose ball deep in the midfield, looking up to find the darting run of mercurial forward Salah in the penalty area who smashed past Meslier – stranded once again. 

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Leeds would be second best and shades of their performance from their previous result would come to the forefront as they scrambled into the break wounded, two goals down and booed by their own fans. 

The interval seemed to revive the hosts who went on to take advantage of lethargic Liverpool defending – Sinesterra pressing Konate into a mistake before bearing down on goal and clipping over Alisson to halve the deficit. 

The vocal home support would be silenced once more as the Leeds’ backline would be exposed just as they started to get a foothold in the game. Curtis Jones picked up a loose ball in midfield before driving towards goal. Escaping several challenges, the midfielder’s through ball found Jota to sweep a finish passed Meslier and restore the visitor’s two-goal advantage. 

The game would be played at a frenetic pace, and it would be Leeds who would create the next opening as they looked to form a response. The dangerous Aaronson controlled a neat through pass expertly before placing an effort toward the top corner of the goal. The crossbar, however, came to Liverpool’s aid with the danger ultimately averted. 

The Leeds defence was once again breached as they failed to deal with Liverpool’s movement and counter attacking pace. Robertson played in Gakpo in space, before finding talisman Salah on the right-hand side. The Egyptian elegantly curled a sumptuous effort into the top corner of the net. 

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Liverpool made it five as Leeds capitulated by a similar margin for the second time in a week in front of their own fans. Henderson’s ball in from the right found Jota, who half-volleyed home from the edge of the area. 

The home side struggled to form a response as multiple substitutions were met between both sides as Colombian Luis Diaz was introduced back to action for the visitors after his long lay-off.  The visitors were not done and added a sixth to add the final nail into the coffin for the night. Alexander-Arnold picked out the run of substitute Darwin Nunez to enjoy the freedom of the Elland Road penalty area before side-footing into the corner past a despondent Meslier. 

The result would be a formality in the end. Liverpool maintain their position of eighth place in the table, reducing the gap on the European places. For Leeds, a second consecutive battering leaves Gracia’s side deep in the relegation mix, two points ahead of the chasing pack.