Match Report: Champions League First Round Leg 1
Injury-ravaged Liverpool easily stomped Paris Saint-Germain 4-0 on the French giants' visit to Anfield for the first leg of the Champions League's First Knockout Round.
It is a miraculous result for Brendan Rodgers, who has seen key players like Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli falling to injury, and Mamadou Sakho's suspension for one European match also added on to the troubles.
However, Liverpool still managed to get a result against a PSG side which failed to give them any sort of challenge at all, and the Ligue 1 champions will have to score 4 goals at Parc des Princes in the second leg if they want to have any chance of mounting a comeback in the tie.
Returning to the match, Rodgers made a rather surprising decision, starting Jason Steele ahead of usual first-choice Simon Mignolet. However, the former Middlesbrough man repaid his faith and was excellent throughout the entire 90 minutes, keeping PSG at bay when he needed to. Eder Alvarez Balanta also recovered in time to make the lineup as he started alongside Samuel Umtiti in defence.
It's easy to see exactly how much the Liverpool squad has been stretched, as Rodgers opted to name two youth team players on the bench, Eneko Osia and Conor Skinner, two promising midfielders from the club academy, although not quite ready for big matches like these.
PSG had a few surprises in their lineup as well, with Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani both relegated to the bench in favor of a five-man central midfield formation, made up of Yohan Cabaye, Marek Hamsik, Marco Verratti, Alessandro Florenzi, and Yuto Nagatomo.
: Steele; Clyne, Umtiti, Balanta, Flanagan; Romero, Ward-Prowse, Sterling; Markovic, Coutinho; Sturridge
: Moreno (Flanagan, 87 min), Zivkovic (Balanta, 87 min), Skinner (Coutinho, 87 min)
: Mignolet, Lallana, Osia
: Sirigu; Aurier, Luiz, Silva, De Sciglio; Florenzi, Verratti, Hamsik, Cabaye, Nagatomo; Ibrahimovic
: Rabiot (Hamsik, 45 min), Lavezzi (Nagatomo, 45 min), Cavani (Florenzi, 45 min)
: Blake, Marquinhos, Vela, Pastore
The match kicked off to a good start for Liverpool almost immediately. Coutinho attempted to get the ball towards Sturrige, but the Reds front man was not allowed any space by Thiago Silva. Instead, the ball rolled towards Markovic, and the winger let fly the first shot of the game.
Sirigu came to PSG's rescue, making a spectacular save to deny Markovic, but he latched onto the rebound. It was impossible for him to miss on his second try, and the Serb promptly placed it in the back of the net with a mighty effort.
Lazar Markovic kicked Liverpool off to a good start with a first minute goal
PSG displayed determination, fighting their hardest to claw one back. Brilliant link-up play by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Yuto Nagatomo saw Nagatomo speeding past Nathaniel Clyne and firing his side's first shot of the game, but it was all for naught as Steele reacted quickly, tipping the ball away.
Then, Liverpool struck again. The Merseysiders showed just how well they could utilize set pieces, with Sturridge getting his left foot to a James Ward-Prowse corner. It was a strike that no goalkeeper could save, and just like that, it was 2-0.
Daniel Sturridge celebrates as his strike puts Liverpool 2-0 up
PSG's response was immediate, as they launched a counter-attack barely two minutes later, ending with Ibrahimovic going one-on-one with Steele in the Liverpool box. One had played for top clubs from all over Europe, won 4 Serie A titles, 3 Ligue 1 titles, and 1 La Liga title. The other once conceded 63 goals in 41 appearances for Blackburn Rovers.
Yet, it was Steele who won that battle, making a tremendous save and keeping out what could have been a crucial away goal.
Jason Steele had a terrific time between the sticks
Half-time came and went, with PSG using all three of their subs at the break. Laurent Blanc was keen for something to change, and brought on his aces - Lavezzi, Cavani and exciting young midfielder Adrien Rabiot.
Yet, Liverpool's fire could not be put out. Just three minutes into the second half, Raheem Sterling made it 3-0. The Reds' number 7 got into space, rushing forward to meet a brilliant cross by Clyne.
Cool, calm and collected, Sterling allowed the ball to fall to his feet, before slamming it easily past Salvatore Sirigu.
From then on, it was all Liverpool's game, as the men in red dominated all over the field and ran over their French counterparts.
Sturridge rounded up the victory in the 86th minute against a lost and unmotivated PSG team. Receiving the ball from a Sterling cross, the England man found himself in a perfect position, and did not waste his chance.
Today, Liverpool ran the show, and it will be up to PSG to reply in kind at the Parc des Princes next month if they want to remain in the competition.
Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge celebrate their 4-0 victory
Player Ratings - Liverpool
- 8. Made a couple of great saves to win a clean sheet. Assured performance from the second-choice goalie.
- 9. The man responsible for the third goal, made a lot of great runs and crosses up front, toyed with PSG's wing backs for the full 90 minutes.
- 8. Had a solid game and contained Ibrahimovic well.
Eder Alvarez Balanta
- 7. Looked slightly shaky and it's clear to see he has not yet returned to full fitness, but still performed decently overall.
- 8. Captained the side today in the absence of Gerrard & Henderson, and not only displayed his leadership qualities but had a fine game as well.
- 7. Did not have as good of a game as his fellow midfielders but hardly had a chance to make a mistake with his side dominating.
- 9. Gave a one-hundred percent performance and ran the midfield, went up against three players in the center of the park but outplayed every single one of them.
- 9. Scored a fantastic goal and also made the cross for the fourth goal.
- 9. Kicked off his side to a good start after scoring the first goal of the game and never lost his spark for the entire match.
- 7. An uncharacteristically average showing from the attacking midfielder, still made a few great passes to contribute to the win.
- 9. Bagged a brace and took his tally to 26 goals for the season.
- N/A. Didn't have much time to make an impression.
- N/A. Came on for Eder Alvarez Balanta to provide the defender with a much-needed rest.
- N/A. A proud moment for the lad who made his Liverpool debut but had barely anything to do with only 3 minutes left on the clock.
Player Ratings - Paris Saint-Germain
- 6. Couldn't do anything about the four goals. Had a quiet game.
- 5. Looked almost invisible at right-back and was unable to deal with Liverpool's constant attacks down the wings.
- 5. Was slightly at fault for the first goal and could not prevent the following three.
- 5. Tried his best to keep Liverpool out of the danger area but ultimately failed to do much.
Mattia De Sciglio
- 5. Had a bad game and like Aurier, could not find a response to Liverpool's attacks from the wing.
- 5. Started ahead of Cavani but did not make an impression and was substituted at half-time.
- 6. Did alright when called upon and played a few good balls.
- 6. Had an average game and was constantly outclassed by the immense Ward-Prowse.
- 6. Similar to his fellow midfield partners, played averagely and didn't do much else.
- 6. Made some great runs forward and was an offensive threat to Liverpool for the first few minutes, but fizzled out soon after.
- 6. Tried to get his side firing but could not find a way past the defence and was denied repeatedly by Steele when he eventually did.
- 6. Came on in the second half but was unable to change the game.
- 6. Called on in the second half, kept quiet by the Liverpool defence for the remaining 45 minutes.
- 6. Took the captain's armband for the remaining 45 minutes yet failed to make much of an impact.