Jurgen Klopp opted to stick rather than rip up the script on Saturday, with his players righting their wrongs against Huddersfield.
For 45 minutes, David Wagner may have believed he would need to console his best friend post-match. But when the final whistle went at Anfield on Saturday evening, it was Jurgen Klopp providing a comforting embrace and a kiss to the cheek of his 'brother', former room-mate and - unnaturally - his opponent.
The Huddersfield manager had wanted Liverpool to rediscover their verve and identity in midweek against Maribor rather than at the expense of his side. And in the first-half, his disobliging tactics seemed to be just the tonic to keep the Reds agonising over a much-needed victory, but after the restart, they turned into the “top-class” machine Wagner labelled them as.
Klopp demanded that his charges, following the chastising 4-1 defeat at Tottenham, “prove we are better than some currently think we are. We have the opportunity to say this is the real us, this is what we are.”
It took Liverpool longer than they would’ve liked to hit their stride, but they ultimately achieved the aim of striking back. It was crucial that they did, too, not merely based on their underwhelming recent results, but to reward the loyality of the Reds boss.
Klopp opted to stick rather than shred the script following the hapless surrender at Spurs last weekend. He persisted with his under-fire backline and Dejan Lovren’s non-participation here was down to picking up a thigh injury in the warm-up, with Ragnar Klavan deputising.
There were only two changes to the line-up, one enforced due to Philippe Coutinho’s injury, as Klopp opted to trust his men to right their wrongs.
It was not the popular choice ahead of kick-off, nor the easy one, but perhaps was the correct one in terms of promoting confidence and unity.
"If something doesn’t work you can change everything or you can stick to what you did before," Klopp explained.
"I was convinced before the Tottenham game that these boys are the right ones and I will not change after one very bad performance, so I am not that confused. Then we had to change [because of Lovren’s injury] and you could see Raggy needed a little bit to find in the game; it was very difficult for him, two minutes before we went in with the squad [he needed to play] and it was not a real warm-up for him as a sub, they are not in the mood to start in the next second. In the first half, he struggled a little bit but in the second half he was really good. Good news for us."
The opening 30 minutes was not “cinema at its best” - the description used by Wagner to summarise Liverpool’s play ahead of the encounter, but more in keeping with a sedative plot that leaves you drifting in and out of slumber.
Huddersfield, as predicted, were obstructive after the template earned them victory against Manchester United. It was up to the hosts to supply all the adventure and initiative, which was always going to be blunted sans the absent Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana.
Mohamed Salah and James Milner shot straight at Jonas Lossl, with the goalkeeper again effective in the only other decisive moment of the half.
With the interval approaching, Kevin Friend spotted Tommy Smith’s shirt tug on Roberto Firmino in the area as the Reds attacked a free-kick. Joel Matip headed Milner’s delivery narrowly wide, and when the whistle went, he thought he was being penalised. Anfield, too, didn’t realise the referee would point to the spot and there was little expectation that Salah would stand over the kick.
Milner and Firmino, who both missed their last penalties for the club, would have been first and second choice naturally but the Egyptian seemed to ask for the ball.
Fresh off firing his country to the World Cup from 12 yards with a composed take in the most pressured circumstance, Salah’s attempt against Huddersfield gave Lossl too little to do.
The goalie saved with his legs and Jordan Henderson’s follow-up hit the left post as it started to feel like ‘one of those’ afternoons.
Liverpool came alive in the second period, though, with Daniel Sturridge and Firmino scoring within eight minutes of each other to put the game beyond the visitors.
The England international’s cool lift over Lossl was his 100th career club goal, with 62 of those netted for the Merseysiders. The Brazilian powered his a header off Milner’s corner into the bottom-left corner to grant a mixture of ecstasy and relief to the home crowd.
Gini Wijnaldum added the finishing touch with a combination of finesse and power. The midfielder, restored after taking a knock to his knee in training prior to the 4-1 humiliation at Tottenham, received possession from Salah and ousted four markers to blast a shot in off the roof of the net.
It ended up being a comfortable victory against a deep-defending side, although a clean sheet cannot truly be celebrated given Huddersfield registered a sole shot in the game.
It would be naive for Liverpool to think their problems, especially at the back, are solved. But they showed the desired reaction at Anfield, which is a decent place to start steering things in the right direction.
This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.