Key Talking Points: Leeds United show class against champions Liverpool

Leeds United started their first season in the Premier League for 16 years against reigning champions Liverpool, a matchup that proved to be the perfect showcase for what Leeds will bring to the Premier League this season.

For the fans of Leeds United, this weekend’s season opener against Liverpool has been a long time coming. After a 16 year absence from England’s top flight, the decorated club have finally found their way back into the Premier League, and fittingly started their campaign against champions Liverpool.

Despite the final result being a loss for Leeds, they managed to give an extremely good account of themselves, going toe to toe with one of the top clubs in England in a game that ended 4-3, a very late Mo Salah penalty proving to be the difference. Leeds put on a bold display of attacking football that pushed Liverpool, making it far from an easy task for the Premier League Champions to come away with all three points.

This impressive performance bodes well for the top flight newcomers, so lets take a moment to look at some of the key talking points from the game.

Harrison, Bamford and Klich showcase Leeds’ attacking potential:

Whenever a newly promoted side goes up against one of the established, top-flight teams of a given league, the expectation is almost always that the result will be an easy three points for the established side. This couldn’t be further from the truth for Liverpool as Leeds United’s attacking play made it very difficult for the reigning English champions.

The Peacocks came into the game showcasing the ability to go forward and make life miserable for the Liverpool back line. Their first goal was provided by Jack Harrison, an equalizer for the penalty scored by Mo Salah in the third minute.

The Manchester city loanee got on the end of a well-weighted ball from Kalvin Phillips out wide, only to cut in on his right foot and take Trent Alexander Arnold out of the equation. He applied a finish that signified Leeds United’s players were well and truly comfortable going toe to toe with the big boys.

Leeds United’s second goal would come from their top scorer last year, Patrick Bamford. Bamford notched 16 goals and 4 assists in last season’s campaign, and he opened his account in a resourceful manner, taking advantage of a mistake made by Virgil Van Dijk after he tried to clear a ball played in by Stuart Dallas.

Leeds had a great amount of success all game with their player’s running onto balls floated in behind the defense, and they continued to put Liverpool in awkward positions by doing so. Bamford celebrated scoring Leeds’ second goal, but also celebrated the fact that it was his second ever goal in the English top flight.

Leeds’ third goal, and in my opinion the easiest on the eye came in the second half on the 65 minute mark. Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich found himself not too far out from the Liverpool box. Playing it out wide to Hélder Costa, Klich opted to continue his run into the box as a gap formed between Van Dijk and Fabinho.

Costa played the ball in, and all it took was a deft touch from Klich to set it on his right foot for the opportunity to shoot to make itself apparent. Klich did not hesitate, and put it past Allison for the third equalizer of the game.

The 30 year old wheeled off to celebrate what he believed would be the goal that sealed at least a point for Leeds in their first game. While this was not to be, Leeds United’s attack showed guts, determination and desire, qualities that should carry them forward nicely as the season progresses.

Robin Koch, Rodrigo give away penalties in Premier League debuts:

Robin Koch joined Leeds United this summer surrounded by a flurry of excitement. The young German international was signed by Leeds from German Bundesliga side SC Freiburg for a fee of 13 million pounds, which by many has been widely considered a steal for the Peacocks. Koch impressed for Freiburg last season, earning him admiring glances from many a club back in Germany.

The 23-year-old opted to move abroad however to help shore up Leeds United’s defense as they transitioned back to life in the Premier League. This endeavor got off to a rocky start in the third minute of the game when a shot from Salah ricocheted off of Koch’s arm for a penalty, which Salah buried shortly thereafter.

Koch would, however, grow into the game slowly, putting in some crucial blocks, a memorable one coming in the 77 minute to stop a shot from Liverpool’s Gini Wijnaldum. One would be hard pressed to judge Koch too strongly for his performance, having just joined his teammates a few days prior to the start of the season.

His untested partnership with Pascal Strujik at the back was forced to face one of the most potent attacks the Premier League has to offer due to an injury to defensive stalwart Liam Cooper. I expect Koch to kick on and show the pedigree that made him such a hit in the Bundesliga as the season progresses.

On Rodrigo’s part, it could be said that Leeds United’s record signing made a bit more of a mess of the second penalty than Koch did of his. Whereas Koch was the unfortunate victim of a close range shot,  Rodrigo put in a poorly timed challenge on Fabinho in the 87th minute within the Leeds penalty area to give Liverpool the opportunity to take all three points, which, incidentally they did. One can hope that Rodrigo can move on from this, confidence unhampered to show the Leeds faithful some joy on the other end of the pitch.

Final Thoughts:

Despite the final result not going Leeds United’s way, the newly promoted Peacocks provided a solid account of themselves against top tier Premier League opposition. Both sides showcased some defensive frailties, but as mentioned, Leeds were missing first choice center back Liam Cooper, which forced Robin Koch to be thrown into the deep end without being given much time to integrate into the team. The penalty aside, there were aspects of Leeds United’s defensive play that did look positive and deserve highlighting. Luke Ayling, who captained Leeds for their season opener did a rather decent job of marshaling Sadio Mané, especially in the first half, forcing errors out of the Senegalese international and stifling his play through interception and blocking his passes. There were also promising instances of play from Kalvin Phillips on the defensive end, a prime example coming in the 43rd minute where he dispossessed Naby Keïta to smother a dangerous looking Liverpool counter attack.

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All in all, Leeds United should be proud of their first showing in the Premier League for 16 years. Their determination and displays of energy truly showcased their potential to be a tough side for any opponent this season, and I for one look forward to seeing many more, improved performances from a historic side that has waited for their time in the sunshine long enough.