Shaqiri justifies transfer decision
It doesn’t require a great leap of imagination to picture Xherdan Shaqiri having left Liverpool this month.
As the transfer deadline approached, Shaqiri was wanted by a number of clubs having fallen down the pecking order at Anfield.
One start in 10 months told the story, the Switzerland international having seen his Anfield career come almost to a standstill due to injuries and the impressive form of his team-mates.
Shaqiri, though, decided to give it one last go, resisting the opportunity to leave.
And in this Champions League group clash against Midtjylland, both player and club benefited.
The relentless schedule – and the five substitutes rule in Europe – has given Shaqiri a surprise opportunity he has willingly accepted after an enthusiastic cameo in Holland last week.
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Nobody has ever doubted the quality of the Swiss. And that was evident with the weight of pass that freed Trent Alexander-Arnold inside the area to cross for Diogo Jota to net the game-defining opener.
But how he equally impressed in the midfield three – reprising the role in which he scored and caught the eye at Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup last month – was with his work ethic and willingness to track back.
Shaqiri may well be playing himself into regular first-team reckoning once again.
Origi and Minamino fluff their lines
Both Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino have a particular affinity with the Champions League.
Origi will forever be loved among Reds supporters for his glorious contribution to the latter stages of Liverpool’s triumphant run in 2019, while it was the competition in which Minamino forged his reputation against the Reds last season.
And with Jurgen Klopp giving his regular front three a well-earned breather, the duo – Minamino making his third start of the season, Origi his second – were afforded a rare opportunity.
Sadly, it just didn’t happen for either of them.
Origi remains the most reluctant of left wingers, his fitful contribution not helped by being on the end of some crunching challenges from a visiting side whose tackling at times left Klopp raging.
If the Belgian’s star is perhaps waning, Minamino was arguably the bigger disappointment here, his touch way off and his frustration highlighted by a petulant foul shortly after losing possession that left him beating the turf in anger with himself.
Jota, playing on the right, continued his happy knack of scoring and has already elevated himself as the first replacement for the established forward line when, as on Saturday, he isn’t starting along with them.
And Mohamed Salah’s injury-time penalty took him to seven goals in 10 games for the season and was his 13th goal in 17 Champions League outings at Anfield. There are never any doubts about the Egyptian.
European night like no other
The tournament logo was decked around the stadium. The competition ball was fizzing across the turf.
The number six was proudly emblazoned on the sleeves of the Liverpool players.
And, of course, blaring out shortly before kick-off came the stirring Champions League anthem, a real tub-thumper as opposed to the latest weak Premier League effort.
Everything, then, was in place for a trademark Anfield European night.
Except for one key aspect. Supporters.
Not since Liverpool’s last home European outing here in the defeat to Atletico Madrid back in March have fans been allowed to watch Jurgen Klopp’s side in competitive action.
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Across Europe it’s a different story, with a number of countries permitting limited numbers – 7,000 fans saw Lokomotiv Moscow entertain Bayern Munich earlier on Tuesday – and embracing a temporary new way of life.
Coronavirus isn’t going away any time soon. Industries, led by proper Government advice, will have to adapt or continue to whither.
And that must, in the coming weeks, allow a gradual return of fans.
As someone who has been fortunate to attend almost every Liverpool game post-lockdown, let me assure you – professional football just isn’t the same without supporters. You need to be back sooner rather than later.