Home News Liverpool inspired by brilliance – and unflinching backline deserves credit

Liverpool inspired by brilliance – and unflinching backline deserves credit

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Whenever any team scores a late winner, it is tempting to focus on the attacking unit or individual that produced in that most crucial of moments.

And in the case of Liverpool’s victory at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, it wouldn’t be unfair to highlight the brilliance of Alexis Mac Allister or the importance of Darwin Nunez‘s return.

But to claim that these crucial three points were solely down to the 99th-minute inspiration of two players alone is to ignore everything that happened up to that point.

The fact is, you can only pull off such a late smash and grab if you have laid the platform to do so beforehand – and that is exactly what Liverpool did in keeping a hard-earned clean sheet at the City Ground.

For all that injuries have made Jurgen Klopp‘s selections difficult in midfield and up top of late, that has not quite been the case at the back.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 2, 2024: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk celebrates his side's winning goal in the ninth minute of injury time during the FA Premier League match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. Liverpool won 1-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Yes, the influential Trent Alexander-Arnold remains out, but his position has been filled with such ease by Conor Bradley that this absence has hardly been felt.

Meanwhile, the boss has the remainder of what is his first-choice back four still available in Andy Robertson, Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk.

The importance of this was underlined on Saturday, as Forest were repeatedly repelled across their best moments of a hard-fought game.

In the end, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men were restricted to eight shots with just two on target, two big chances, and an xG total of just 0.97.

That makes for an interesting comparison with last season’s meeting between these sides at the same stadium, when the hosts managed 7/10 shots on target, created five big chances, and ended with an xG of 1.85 that landed them a deserved 1-0 win.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 2, 2024: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher makes a save during the FA Premier League match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Key this time around was an unbeatable duo at the heart of defence, with Konate winning 7/10 duels and posting nine defensive actions, while Van Dijk won 4/5 with six defensive actions.

Neither man erred in possession, either, ending the 90 minutes as the top two players in terms of touches and with a passing accuracy of 92 and 94 percent respectively.

And let us not forget Caoimhin Kelleher amid all of this either, with the Irishman keeping his third clean sheet in a row with two saves at Forest that kept out 1.15 xGOT (expected goals on target).

This solidity had, in fact, emerged as a consistent theme across an 11-day stretch ending at Forest that featured four games, as many wins, three clean sheets, and a trophy to go with it.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 2, 2024: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez celebrates after scoring the winning goal in the ninth minute of injury time during the FA Premier League match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And it will no doubt need to do so again during the crucial period awaiting Liverpool before an international break in which their injury problems should ease.

Should the Reds also come through these further tests unscathed, then perhaps more credit will finally be given to the men providing the foundation on which their wins are earned.