Liverpool put one foot in the Europa League knockout stages on Thursday night with what was eventually a comprehensive 4-1 win over French side Toulouse.
Diogo Jota initially got the ball rolling at Anfield, only for Thijs Dallinga to hit back against the run of play, symbolising the admirable spirit that Toulouse brought to the game. But Wataru Endo’s first Liverpool goal and one from Darwin Nunez before half-time put Jurgen Klopp’s team into a commanding lead.
Player of the match Ryan Gravenberch later put the icing on the cake, with substitute Mohamed Salah adding a fifth for Liverpool for good measure in stoppage time.
How the game unfolded
Liverpool wasted little time in taking the lead, going ahead inside the opening 10 minutes when Jota skipped through the challenges and very calmly finding the bottom left corner. The Reds then stayed dominant and Guillaume Restes had to be alert when Nunez sat down his marker and fired at the onrushing Toulouse goalkeeper narrowing the angle.
Given that, the Toulouse equaliser came from nowhere and was alarmingly simple. As a counter attack developed, there was acres of space for Dallinga to run into – Trent Alexander-Arnold tried and failed to catch him offside – and kept his composure to beat Caoimhin Kelleher.
The goal flattened the crowd inside Anfield and it took a back to basics set-piece to restore the advantage. Harvey Elliott saw Curtis Jones in space for a short corner, with Jones in turn laying it back to Alexander-Arnold. There wasn’t any pressure on the ball from Toulouse, allowing the Liverpool skipper for the night to pick his spot with a cross for Endo to head in.
And it wasn’t long before Nunez had got Liverpool’s third before even the half-time whistle. Jones’ attempted shot rebounded into the path of the Uruguayan, who fired high into the net with left foot. Gravenberch had made the whole thing possible with a driving run forward.
Kelleher had largely been a spectator in the first half but came perilously close to gifting Toulouse a second goal right after the interval with a woefully misplaced pass out from the back. But he had Alexander-Arnold to thank for somehow blocking Gabriel Suazo’s shot on the goal-line.
Pressing for a fourth, Gravenberch forced an unorthodox save from Restes. An adventurous Endo was involved in getting forward too and had also seen his own effort only narrowly miss the target. Restes was again denying the excellent Gravenberch at the hour mark.
Liverpool still weren’t wholly convincing at the back, with too many gaps and too many sloppy passes allowing Toulouse a glimmer of hope that shouldn’t have been there. But they moved out of reach when Gravenberch was rewarded for his performance with a goal of his own. Really, it should have gone to Nunez, who did the hard work by beautifully beating his marker and rounding Restes, only to strike the post with the goal gaping. Gravenberch followed it up to turn in the rebound.
Salah scored the fifth with virtually the last kick of the game, clipping the underside of the bar as his shot from the middle of the penalty area hit the back of the net.
GK: Caoimhin Kelleher – 5/10 – Didn’t have a great deal to do and a lapse in concentration nearly allowed Toulouse back into the game a second time.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (c) – 7/10 – Culpable for the Toulouse equaliser, but made Liverpool’s go-ahead goal and later made a miraculous goal-line block at a crucial time.
CB: Joe Gomez – 6/10 – Saw a lot of the ball as Liverpool dominated possession and did extremely well in that respect. Defensively, not convincig from the team.
CB: Joel Matip – 6/10 – Again, had a lot of the ball at his feet, but not rock solid and allowed Toulouse too many chances.
LB: Luke Chambers – 5/10 – A full debut but a challenging night for the youngster.
CM: Curtis Jones – 8/10 – Pulled the string creatively and created a number of chances.
CM: Wataru Endo – 8/10 – Scored Liverpool’s first headed goal since April. Showed plenty of endeavour to get forward and arguably his best game since joining the club.
CM: Ryan Gravenberch – 9/10 – Another all-action Europa League display. Made the third goal possible with his driving run and ensured Liverpool were almost always in control. Deserved his goal.
RW: Diogo Jota – 7/10 – Started very brightly and broke the deadlock early on.
ST: Darwin Nunez – 7/10 – Clinical with his goal, but missed a far easier chance with an open net in the second half. At least Gravenberch scored the rebound and he could laugh about it.
LW: Harvey Elliott – 6/10 – Found it difficult to make the same level of impact as some of his attacking teammates.
SUB: Calum Scanlon (66′ for Nunez) – 6/10
SUB: Cody Gakpo (67′ for Alexander-Arnold) – 6/10
SUB: Jarell Quansah (67′ for Chambers) – 6/10
SUB: Mohamed Salah (70′ for Gravenberch) – 7/10
SUB: James McConnell (88′ for Jones) – N/A
Subs not used: Alisson (GK), Jaros (GK), Van Dijk, Tsimikas, Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, Diaz
Jurgen Klopp – 8/10 – Plenty of changes were made to the starting XI to keep players fresh. It worked overall and he didn’t have to use a few of his biggest names either.
Player of the match – Ryan Gravenberch (Liverpool)
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