• Saturday, March 02, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Could this be the ‘re-ignited’ Liverpool?

Liverpool re-ignited their Premier League title credentials with a breezy 3-0 win at White Heart Lane on Sunday as new boy Mario Balotelli made his return to the Premier League.

 The vibrant performance that became Liverpool’s hallmark as they went within touching distance of winning the Premier League last season before a crucial slip against Chelsea gifted the title to Manchester City was once again on display as the Kops won the game on a canter.

England promising star, Raheem Sterling, displayed a brilliant performance that put Liverpool ahead in the early stages, veteran captain, Steven Gerrard, scored a penalty and Alberto Moreno netted his first goal for the club to give Brendan Rodgers a bright start and mark his 100th game as manager.

Brendan Rodgers warned Liverpool’s title rivals that his team are back in the groove after the scintillating 3-0 win.

 Balotelli was supposed to steal the spotlight on his return to the Premier League, but the flamboyant Italy striker had to play second fiddle to new team-mates Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson on Sunday.

Brendan Rodgers praised his side’s performance and also hailed 16 million euro Italian striker Balotelli for his enterprising display before being withdrawn in the 61st minute.

Balotelli offered glimpses of his vast talent with some neat combinations with Sterling and Sturridge during his debut.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - Premier League

“Overall our quality was exceptional. We got three goals and could have had more,” said Rodgers.

 “I thought he was excellent,” Rodgers said of the maverick striker.

“He bought straight into our team ethic, trained well and has put all that background noise about him to one side. He’s been brilliant,” Rodgers added.

The result saw Liverpool bounce back from a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City in their previous outing and ended Tottenham’s 100 percent start to the campaign under new coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Rodgers employed a midfield diamond formation to overwhelm Tottenham’s fragile defence. The partnership of Sturridge and Balotelli in the attack was a menace to the defence, while Henderson covered every blade of grass in midfield in an energetic encounter.

Despite the departure of star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona, Rodgers’s team look to have got over last season’s title race meltdown and the Reds boss believes they will be among the main contenders to win the English crown once again.

“I thought we were excellent. It was an outstanding performance. We have risen to every challenge since I’ve been here. It was the same last year when people wondered if we could keep it up. The beauty of this group is they are very humble. We clicked back to where we were last season. That was good to see, I think people will enjoy watching us this season,” Rodgers said.

While Rodgers was keen to accentuate the positive with Balotelli, he reserved special remark for 19-year-old England midfielder Sterling.

”We’ve tried to develop Raheem into a player that can start inside and also play wide. You’ve seen the flexibility from him today. It’s important for me they have that intelligence to play in a number of systems. For a kid of 19, he is excellent.”

The Reds face a tight test for their strength and credentials in the Uefa Champions League following a draw with defending champion Real Madrid in Group B. The will also play Basel, who beat Chelsea twice last term, and Bulgarian debutants Ludogorets Razgrad.

Liverpool have a good track record with Spanish teams in recent encounter.

Since beating Real Madrid in the 1981 European Cup final, Liverpool have played 28 matches against Spanish teams and won only six. But their recent away record in Spain is excellent. They have lost only one of six Champions League away games and won three of the last four.

Could these scintillating and promising performances of Brenden Rodger boys be a sign of a ‘new’ and ‘rejuvenated’ Liverpool? Only time will tell.

ANTHONY NLEBEM