03 Sep Salah, Alexander-Arnold get 8/10 as Liverpool cruise to win vs. Aston Villa
The Reds got off to the perfect start in the third minute when Dominik Szoboszlai attacked a ball that was cleared into a dangerous area from a corner, and his precise strike gave Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez no chance.
Liverpool continued to press and doubled their lead when Darwin Núñez‘s strike from Mohamed Salah‘s pass smashed off the post before deflecting off defender Matty Cash for an own goal. Joël Matip almost added a third moments later but should have done better with his header from Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s free kick.
Moussa Diaby looked the brightest for Aston Villa in the first half, and he had a curling effort that he couldn’t quite direct past Alisson. The Brazil international goalkeeper was called into action after the break with a strong stop to deny a header from Cash, before Jurgen Klopp’s side increased their lead when Nunez’s flick-on was finished by Salah.
The Villans didn’t offer much of a response after Liverpool’s triple-substitution in the 65th minute as a clear drop in tempo followed, allowing the home side to comfortably play out the remainder of the match to secure all three points.
Szoboszlai has impressed early on in his Liverpool career, and he opened his account in style with a finish that should give him plenty more confidence as the Reds prepare to begin their European campaign.
A strong all-round team performance saw Klopp’s side press with cohesion during a match in which they were dominant in duels and looked structured in their attacking play.
Alexander-Arnold came off with an injury in the second half which didn’t look to be too serious, but it is something to monitor for Liverpool heading into the international break.
There were a couple of occasions where Klopp’s side could have taken better care of the ball, but those were few and far between in what was Liverpool’s best display of the season so far.
Manager rating (1-10; 10 = best)
Jurgen Klopp, 8 — Klopp’s team selection saw Darwin Nunez rewarded for his match-winning substitute performance against Newcastle United last week, while his tactical approach seemed to ensure stability while maintaining a constant attacking threat. He was also cautious with Curtis Jones, who recently returned from injury, by replacing him as part of a trio of changes midway through the second half.
GK Alisson, 7 — Liverpool’s No. 1 was called into action early in the second half and was convincing with his save to deny Cash’s header. Commanded his box well in a match in which he didn’t have too much to do.
DF Andy Robertson, 7 — Alert to the danger and anticipated oncoming attacks well from the opposition. Consistently in the right position during defensive phases.
DF Joel Matip, 7 — Connected well with a header from Alexander-Arnold’s free kick but couldn’t get it on target. Looked assured at the back alongside Gomez, apart from a moment when a poor pass was carelessly put out for a corner.
DF Joe Gomez, 7 — The 26-year-old had an aura of calm throughout the game, and chose his moments to be aggressive with his defending. Showed further composure on the ball, and was able to switch the play amid pressure from Aston Villa’s forward line.
DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 8 — His best performance of the season saw his passing back to his best. The Liverpool captain was unlucky not to end the first half with two assists to his name, though he did play a part in the second goal when releasing Salah down the right channel.
MF Alexis Mac Allister, 7 — Another bright display from the Argentina international who was always an option for the defence, and displayed astuteness with his transitioning into more advanced players. An intelligent performance that maintained control of the match, despite playing in a less familiar role as a No. 6.
MF Curtis Jones, 7 — The 22-year-old continued the form he showed in the latter part of last season with a positive performance in which he stood out for his pressing. Jones often forced the opposition into mistakes, and also helped control the game with consistent decision-making with his passing. A display that will certainly force Klopp to consider keeping him in the team.
MF Dominik Szoboszlai, 7 — An excellently timed volley was too accurate for Aston Villa goalkeeper Martinez. The Hungary international’s first goal for his new club was just the kind that he used to score regularly for RB Leipzig, and one that suggests it could be the first of many.
FW Luis Díaz, 7 — Stretched the play down the left flank and wasted no time in looking to attack his marker directly. A constant danger that the opposition couldn’t work out, and that allowed Liverpool to get players forward into dangerous areas.
FW Darwin Nunez, 7 — The Uruguay international was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet in the first half but still played a vital role in Liverpool’s second, with his effort coming off the post before being deflected into the net. Almost had a second with a delicate finish that hit the crossbar, but contributed to Liverpool’s third with a flick-on for Salah.
FW Mohamed Salah, 8 — Impressive link-up play with Alexander-Arnold saw Salah time his runs excellently. That was the route Liverpool took for their second goal, and they also had another when Salah was unlucky not to score with an effort from inside the box on his stronger left foot. Eventually got on the scoresheet to make it 3-0 after timing his run to meet Nunez’s assist.
Substitutes (players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
Cody Gakpo (Nunez, 65′), 6 — Didn’t have too many opportunities to get on the ball with Liverpool slowing down the tempo of the game.
Diogo Jota (Diaz, 65′), 6 — Looked to play forward when on the ball but, similarly to Gakpo, didn’t have enough chances to make his mark. Tracked back in the rare moments when Aston Villa looked to break.
Jarell Quansah (Alexander-Arnold, 71′), N/R — On for Alexander-Arnold who requested to come off with an injury, and was faultless in his performance.
Wataru Endo (Mac Allister, 87′), N/R — Introduced for the final spell of the game for Mac Allister.