Liverpool, the Premier League champions welcomed Leeds United, the Championship winners, to Anfield in a mouth-watering opening-day fixture of the 2020-21 season. This matchup was tipped to offer neutrals a fascinating tactical duel between two managers with remarkably similar philosophies, and the game didn't disappoint in that regard.
The game started with a high tempo, with both teams looking to impose their style on the other. The opening goal of the game came in rather contentious fashion, though. When a Mohamed Salah effort bounced off Robin Koch’s arm, the referee awarded a penalty that was nonchalantly converted by the Egyptian. Against all odds, though, Leeds equalised eight minutes later through a fantastic solo effort from Jack Harrison.
The Reds retook the lead through a Virgil van Dijk header from a corner. Marco Bielsa’s men then deservedly equalised again when Van Dijk gifted the ball to Patrick Bamford in the box.
The fifth goal of the game came in the 33rd minute as Salah claimed his second of the game with a rocket into the top corner. Late in the second half, Leeds equalised for the third time when Mateusz Klich stabbed home from close range. However, Liverpool eventually sealed the deal in the 88th minute with a second Salah penalty.
On that note, here are five talking points from Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Leeds.
Five talking points from Liverpool's 4-3 win over Leeds United:
#5 Virgil van Dijk had a sub-par game
Is it me or has Virgil van Dijk been a different player since encountering Ismaila Sarr? Maybe it’s just me, but the Dutchman has notably committed two errors in his last four games, errors that directly contributed to goals for the opposition. Against a rampant Leeds side, the 29-year-old seemingly couldn’t handle their high press as his loose touch gifted the Yorkshire side their second of the game.
Apart from that, the defender was caught out on several other occasions as Liverpool tried to hold a high defensive line against a team that thrives on such a tactic. In another below-par display, Van Dijk had 43 touches of the ball, lost possession nine times, made zero tackles and made one error.
#4 Kalvin Philips made a sparkling Premier League debut
After having made his debut for England, a lot of eyes were on Premier League debutant Kalvin Phillips. The 24-year-old’s impressive passing range and tenacious tackling has made him one of England’s most exciting prospects. In fact, for years, England craved a player who could sit at the base of midfield and dictate play. They seem to have found one in Kalvin Phillips.
Against Liverpool, Bielsa’s star pupil had 74 touches of the ball, completed 42 passes, created two chances, won four duels and provided an assist. His presence in the team is instrumental in how Leeds play as he has the ability to beat the opposing team’s press by passing in between the lines.