Liverpool get back to winning ways as Huddersfield slide
Jürgen Klopp’s side put West Brom and Swansea defeats behind them at the Kirklees Stadium
Roberto Firmino of Liverpool celebrates as he scores their second goal past goalkeeper Jonas Lossl of Huddersfield Town during the Premier League match at John Smith’s Stadium. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Huddersfield Town 0 Liverpool 3
Liverpool’s epic defeat of Manchester City this month was beginning to look like a Pyrrhic victory through being followed by two unexpected losses against teams from the bottom of the Premier League, but goals from Emre Can and Roberto Firmino and a late penalty from Mohamed Salah helped them stop the rot in West Yorkshire.
Strictly speaking Huddersfield are not yet a bottom-of-the-table team, though without a league win since mid-December they look to be heading that way. They have picked up two home wins since beating Manchester United in October and, when they run out at Old Trafford on Saturday, they will be perilously close to the bottom three and much lower in confidence.
Liverpool were not quite at their best but still slick enough to secure the points in the first half and could have won by a more convincing margin but for squandering chances in the second.
The visitors surprisingly started without Virgil van Dijk, at £75 million the most expensive substitute in Liverpool history, while the home side switched to three at the back for a change and gave Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounie a rare outing together up front.
The former was involved in the first real opening, stabbing a first-time shot that forced a save from Loris Karius. It was a better opportunity than Huddersfield possibly realised but, although Depoitre had a clear sight of goal, the ball was running away from him and he did not have time to steady himself properly.
Huddersfield were left regretting that when Liverpool took the lead midway through the first half. Can had already brought a routine save from Jonas Lössl with an optimistic shot from outside the area but, when a headed clearance from Christopher Schindler came his way a minute later, he had no hesitation in having another go from a similar distance. Philip Billing’s attempt to close him down was a little late and more than a little half-hearted and the midfielder succeeded only in deflecting Can’s effort beyond Lössl.
That seemed to settle Liverpool down and allow some of the old confidence to return, even if the travelling support was well aware that taking the lead against West Brom in the last game was the signal for their opponents to hit back with three goals.
Huddersfield were unlikely to do the same by retreating behind the halfway line, yet that is precisely what they did, inviting Liverpool to pass the ball around the edge of their area.
Liverpool are quite good at that and, when Andrew Robertson beat Florent Hadergjonaj to reach the byline, it took a timely intervention by Schindler to prevent his cutback reaching James Milner.
The only response Huddersfield made before half-time was from a free-kick just outside the area. It looked like a promising position for Aaron Mooy, who stood over the ball, though it was Chris Lowe who tried his luck only to see his shot fly narrowly wide.
If that was hard luck, Huddersfield had only themselves to blame for going two goals down on the stroke of the interval. Admittedly the interplay between Milner and Sadio Mané that sent Firmino to the byline would have been hard for anyone to counter, though once the Brazilian had broken through and begun to move towards Lössl’s goal the home defenders positioned themselves for a cross rather than a shot. Firmino punished them for their presumption, squeezing a shot between Lössl and his near post from an impossibly narrow angle.
Mané should have increased Liverpool’s lead early in the second half but could not quite summon the power or the placement to beat Lössl with a header and when Milner tried his luck with a rising drive from outside the area the goalkeeper was alert enough to tip his effort over the bar.
Mané was wide with another header with only Lössl to beat as the game moved into its final quarter, and Salah could only find the side-netting after rounding the goalkeeper.
Huddersfield did have a penalty claim before the end, but Kevin Friend waved away appeals for Robertson’s challenge on Colin Quaner, just before awarding one at the other end for a clumsy but harmless stumble by Billing into Can. Salah stepped up to score, the crowd was not happy, but it was not the home side’s night. – Guardian service