Liverpool make perfect Premier League start but tough challenges coming up

Liverpool may not have been at their best but their 2-1 win at Leicester completes an ideal start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s team ahead of the international break.

First-half goals from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino put the Reds in control at the King Power Stadium before Alisson’s howler allowed Rachid Ghezzal to set up a nervy finish.

But Liverpool held on to make it four wins from four and here we assess their performance and how they stand in the title race after the opening part of the campaign…

Liverpool maintain perfect start

While the fixture list handed Liverpool a favourable start to the season, the fact this is the first time they’ve kicked off a Premier League campaign with four straight wins underlines the difficulty of hitting the ground running. Liverpool may not have reached top form yet but the 12 points are all that matter.

The likes of Burnley and Watford have scuppered Liverpool’s previous early season form under Jurgen Klopp, so to pass the tests of West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Leicester will be a welcome boost.

Fab four

The last time Liverpool won their first four league games was in 1990/91 when Kenny Dalglish was in charge.

“Sometimes you have to win ugly,” Liverpool midfielder James Milner told Sky Sports. “Finding a way to get the result when things aren’t going for you, that’s what you have to do sometimes in the Premier League.”

Liverpool have hit the front early on – and now the focus and pressure switches to their title rivals, who are in action later this weekend.

Alisson’s big error

Liverpool’s outfielders were far from blemish free but goalkeeper Alisson served up the kind of error they thought they had rid themselves of by spending a then-world record fee to bring in Brazil’s number one this summer.

The plaudits had been stacking up for Alisson following his first three performances for Liverpool but whether it was over-confidence or just poor decision making, his dalliance on the ball which allowed Leicester to score had Klopp wildly gesticulating on the touchline.

Rare error

Alisson didn’t make one error leading to a goal in Serie A last season.

“If sometimes there is a situation where this is dribbling, I do it carefully,” Alisson said last week after his bold chip over an on-rushing Anthony Knockaert against Brighton had gone viral on social media. But if he got away with that one, an ill-advised Cruyff turn in his own box went spectacularly wrong at Leicester.

5:41 Klopp backs Alisson after his error at Leicester

Kelechi Iheanacho pounced and squared for Ghezzal to turn into the unguarded net and with that went Alisson’s hopes of a club record-equalling fourth clean sheet in his first four games and, perhaps, the air of invincibility he had created – although Klopp later praised his ‘keeper’s composure and positive response after the incident. The international break at least allows him to move on and put it behind him with a lesson learnt.

Signs of a serious Liverpool title challenge?

“There’s still a lot more from Liverpool to come,” said Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher as Liverpool saw out the final few moments of their victory and that view was echoed by Jamie Redknapp in the studio.

“It was a nice reality check,” said the former Liverpool midfielder. “They weren’t at their best but got another three points.

“In terms of the start, it’s the perfect return, a couple of performances haven’t been up to scratch but there have been lots of positives as well and I think the way they play and the pace in their team, I think they’re going to go really close this year.”

Liverpool will have to come back from the international break sharper, with a tricky run of games awaiting them. A mouth-watering trip to Tottenham is their next test, with Chelsea and Manchester City on the horizon, as Champions League and Carabao Cup ties come in to play.

Ton up for unsung Milner

James Milner marked his 100th Premier League appearance for Liverpool with another assist, whipping in the corner for Firmino to head in Liverpool’s second. Remarkably that cross takes Milner to 80 Premier League assists in his career – the same number as David Beckham and joint-seventh in the standings.

Treble century

James Milner is one of four players to make 100 PL apps for three different teams (Liverpool, Man City, Aston Villa), along with Gareth Barry, Rory Delap and Gary Speed.

He could have had a goal, too, had Mohamed Salah’s return pass been better weighted after Milner had instigated a quick break with a powerful tackle, while he topped Liverpool’s standings for distance covered (12.47km), touches (81), possession wins (nine) and blocks (two) in a typically all-action performance.

Milner’s importance is often understated, but he continues to be a key element of Klopp’s plans. It was Naby Keita, not Milner, who made way for Jordan Henderson in the starting line-up, and the former England international continues to set the tone for his manager on the pitch.

Firmino off the mark

Firmino had a welcome boost from his national team boss Tite this week, when he was named as one of only two strikers in the Brazil squad for their September friendlies, and promptly got off the mark in the Premier League season with a well-taken header at Leicester.

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The selfless linkman has dropped deeper for the Reds this term, connecting with Liverpool’s midfield and allowing the likes of Salah and Mane to run beyond him but he was perfectly placed to divert Milner’s corner home at the near post in the first half on Saturday.

That takes Firmino’s tally of goal involvements to 60 under Klopp (37 goals, 23 assists) – 15 more than any other Liverpool player.

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