Liverpool made it two wins from two at the start of their Europa League group stage campaign by beating Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise at Anfield on Thursday night.
It wasn’t a vintage Liverpool performance by any means, but Ryan Gravenberch was impressive throughout his 79 minutes on the pitch, scoring his first goal since his £34.5m transfer from Bayern Munich and contributing massively to the 2-0 win.
Diogo Jota got the second amid some late pressure from Union in the closing stages.
How the game unfolded
Union goalkeeper Anthony Moris, an international with Luxembourg, was probably expecting to have a busy night when he arrived at Anfield and was given exactly that. It started early when he saved from Mohamed Salah after a fortuitous deflection created the first clear chance.
Liverpool also had the ball in the net early on when Moris saved from Gravenberch and Darwin Nunez turned in the rebound. But the Uruguayan was flagged offside. Nunez soon also missed what seemed like it should have been a certain goal when Salah crossed low from the right.
Meanwhile, Union weren’t really threatening at all and took nearly 20 minutes for a single shot. Although with Liverpool failing to make their dominance count, confidence was growing among the Belgians and Gustaf Nilsson headed a really good opportunity over.
Moris went on to save from Nunez, but Liverpool lacked a cutting edge until the Union stopper effectively handed them the lead in first half stoppage time. He couldn’t hold Alexander-Arnold’s shot and the already impressive Gravenberch was quickest to react to convert the rebound.
The Reds had been the better side but it had still been somewhat laboured at times, which prompted half-time changes from Jurgen Klopp. That also meant a nice moment for the Mac Allister family, as Alexis came on to line up against older brother and Union defender Kevin.
The Liverpool Mac Allister’s impact was felt when he set up Jota early in the second half, only for Moris to go some way to redeem himself with a top save from the header. Moris continued to frustrate, tipping away from Gravenberch. Yet, for as long as the lead was kept to one goal, the Reds were vulnerable and that showed when Union had a couple of corners and were starting to become a bit more adventurous in pursuit of a famous result.
Substitute Luis Diaz hit the post at the other end, although a flag did go up, while Union were appealing for a penalty when Kevin Rodriguez was nudged over by Jarell Quansah.
Eventually, despite the nervy finish, Jota made sure of the victory late on when a tackle on Diaz from Union’s Noah Sadiki put the ball into his path. Bearing down on goal, the left-footed finish was calm and composed, giving Moris no chance.
GK: Alisson – 5/10 – Not his most convincing night. Came flying out of his goal at one point and flapped at a cross he had shouted for the defenders to leave.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (c) – 7/10 – Made the breakthrough goal with a smart counter down the left and actually defended pretty well too.
CB: Ibrahima Konate – 7/10 – Only misplaced a handful of passes all night and played the game with everything in front of him at almost all times.
CB: Jarell Quansah – 7/10 – Ran the risk of giving away a penalty late on, but it would have been harsh. Generally did well and will benefit from getting another start.
LB: Kostas Tsimikas – 6/10 – Final ball was a bit lacking when he got forward. No complaints, defensively.
CM: Harvey Elliott – 5/10 – Liverpool weren’t particularly fluid and this was perhaps a missed opportunity to really imprint himself against weaker opposition.
CM: Wataru Endo – 5/10 – Increasingly clear that he won’t be a starter for the biggest games, but still has an important rotation role to fill. Taking time to settle though.
CM: Ryan Gravenberch – 8/10 – Showed quick reactions and good anticipation to open his Liverpool account. Had other good chances and was heavily involved from the start until he came off.
RW: Mohamed Salah – 6/10 – Perhaps surprising to see him start over Ben Doak. Missed an early chance but was brought off after 45 minutes anyway.
ST: Darwin Nunez – 6/10 – Saw one would be goal disallowed and missed another really good chance. Involved in the build-up to Gravenberch’s strike, at least.
LW: Diogo Jota – 7/10 – Some wayward shooting and one really cool finish.
SUB: Luis Diaz (46′ for Nunez) – 7/10
SUB: Alexis Mac Allister (46′ for Endo) – 6/10
SUB: Curtis Jones (46′ for Salah) – 6/10
SUB: Joe Gomez (63′ for Alexander-Arnold) – 6/10
SUB: Dominik Szoboszlai (79′ for Gravenberch) – 6/10
Subs not used: Jaros (GK), Mrozek (GK), Van Dijk, Chambers, Matip, Robertson, Doak
Jurgen Klopp – 7/10 – Clearly keen not to underestimate the opposition by naming a strong team and made it even stronger by the changes he put into the game at the break.