Liverpool maintained their 100% start to the season after a late, late win against Paris Saint Germain.
Goals from Daniel Sturridge and James Milner were enough to give them the lead for most of the game after a fine Thomas Meunier strike, but Kylian Mbappe equalised late on. Roberto Firmino struck in added time to give the Reds all three points.
Both Liverpool and PSG can now look forward to games against Napoli and Crvena Zvezda respectively next time around.
Here are the four things we learned from tonight’s match at Anfield.
1) Liverpool’s big front three didn’t start, but they still outdid ‘MCN’ thanks to Sturridge
Roberto Firmino was forced onto the bench due to an eye injury. In his place was Daniel Sturridge, a very different striker who while injury-prone carries his own more conventional type of threat.
For all the talk of the front three, it was the likes of James Milner and Trent Alexander-Arnold who were heavily involved in Liverpool’s attack. Sadio Mane was a menace, but a lack of teamwork late on didn’t reflect well.
Sturridge, not straying deep as Firmino does, was quiet until it mattered. He was well-place to meet Andy Robertson’s cross with a fine header for the opener. With his pride intact after a good performance, the Englishman went off for Firmino, who scored a superb winner in his brief cameo.
Mbappe, Cavani and Neymar were kept relatively quiet to begin with, but their class eventually told, with the two wingers in particular wreaking havoc at times. Neymar drifted well between the centre and left, but PSG often found it difficult to break down the home team, characterised by a pot-shot from Angel Di Maria borne out of frustration.
It was the wingers who combined again for the late equaliser, pouncing on a Salah mistake and putting 85 minutes of goalmouth disappointment behind them in one fell swoop.
2) Anfield is still a fortress
PSG fans may have entered brandishing flares, but once the match was underway there was no doubting that Anfield was red.
Their early onslaught was a sight to behold, as Jurgen Klopp on the sideline matched the intensity of his players and the fans.
Then having lost the majority share of possession, they pushed PSG back to their own box to raucous cheers. ‘MCN’ did grow in prominence as the match progressed, but the home support acted as genuine back-up in the face of an exemplary attack.
No team will relish a visit to Anfield in this competition, with Liverpool undefeated in it at home since 2014.
3) Liverpool’s defensive woes are largely behind them
Liverpool were coping well defensively for the majority of the tie, but a wayward Mohamed Salah pass meant that Neymar of all players was suddenly in possession in yards of space. One run later, and Mbappe equalised. Such are the margins at the highest level.
That being said, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of Virgil van Dijk. While some have managed that in calling him among the best central defenders in the world, the Dutchman’s doing everything he can to live up to the £75m price tag.
He was assured all evening, making last-ditch interceptions, getting his side out of trouble, and even providing an attacking threat. Joe Gomez was an able assistant, and could yet spell trouble for Dejan Lovren’s place in the team.
Full backs Alexander-Arnold and Robertson coped well in the main with PSG’s pace, and both provided superb attacking outlets. If Alisson keeps the fancy footwork to a minimum, the last piece of the puzzle for Klopp could be in place already.
4) Both teams are genuine contenders for the title
Liverpool’s burgeoning Premier League challenge may spread them too thin if they are to conquer Europe, but they are certainly capable of going one better than last year, with that experience now under their belts.
Jurgen Klopp spent big, but also spent well.
Their squad is now deeper, with Fabinho, Firmino, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri to call on from the bench. With Daniel Sturridge acquitting himself well and scoring against a team of the stature of PSG, their attacking options continue to increase. Alisson and van Dijk offer a solid spine, and the resurgent form of James Milner and Joe Gomez bode well for the depth the Reds now boast.
As for PSG, their front three is arguably the most fearsome in club football. This defeat marked their first real test of the season, with the trio yet to really gel after a time of injury and World Cup exploits for Neymar and Mbappe respectively. They are yet to convince us defensively, however. Accommodating Di Maria in a three-man midfield only added to their struggles in defence tonight.
Manager Thomas Tuchel has avoided some of the player disputes that dogged Unai Emery last season, and after five straight wins in Ligue 1, can already afford to focus on the elusive European crown.