Another night in Istanbul, another European trophy to add to the cabinet. The reds crowned themselves UEFA super cup champions for the fourth time, and added a second trophy to Klopp's Liverpool reign. The second of many. We find ourselves now, amongst a midst of domination I feel. Last season, there was one thing everyone kept saying about this side, mentality monsters. They're proving to be that again. I know it's only early doors, and the super cup isn't the biggest trophy on the planet, but the reds proved yet again that they want to be lifting silverware. Being in the chase isn't good enough for these players anymore, they want gold medals, they want to be standing on the podium, they want to bathe the pith in red confetti, and travel home with added carry on.
As for the game itself, it wasn't the best performance. Before the game, we believed that Chelsea would struggle due to the lack of recovery time between playing United and travelling to Istanbul, couple that with Liverpool playing on Friday night at home, thus having more recovery time, you'd think that we would be the side with the higher energy levels. That wasn't the case though. I felt like our midfield got overran for most of the first half. Something just wasn't right. When the starting 11 was announced, I was actually buzzing to see Ox on the team sheet, but the lad struggled to make an impact on the game. He did have one moment of brilliance where he sent Salah through with a delicious ball, but other than that I hardly seen him. Unfortunately, I think the intensity was just a bit too much for him in this game, but with him still recovering from his injury, it can only be a good thing for him to play in such a match. The reds went into the changing rooms at half time, one nil down. Bobby came on in replacement of the aforementioned Ox, and straight away you could see the difference in the intensity of the press by the front three, which obviously lead to Mane equalising within a few minutes. It just goes to show what we already know, how important Bobby is to the dynamic of this whole side. He is the linch pin, both in attack and defence.
As the second half continued, the energy seemed to be deteriorating quickly, but I felt that Liverpool were the side on top, still creating opportunities. You could tell that both sides were struggling with the heat and humidity. There was one corner were VVD, Matip and Gomez went forward, and they were all saturated in sweat, including their shorts. So obviously the conditions would have made it more difficult, and with it being so early on in the season, the players are still working on their match fitness.
The 90 minutes ended in a stalemate, 1-1, and headed to extra time. Bobby and Mane linked up again for Liverpools second, and what a finish it was by Sadio. The game seemed like it was going to be settled by that piece of brilliant play, until Chelsea were awarded a penalty, a very soft one I believe. In all honesty, I think the Referee actually had a brilliant game, as did the linesmen, or should I say lineswomen. It was an outstanding advertisement for female officials in the game, and they handled the occasion brilliantly. However, I do feel like VAR would have overruled that decision for the penalty, had it not been the first game officiated by a woman in UEFA competitions. I don't know if that will cause a stir, and I apologise if anyone takes offence to that, but no offence is intended. I just believe the media and papers would have been all over that, if in the first game officiated by a woman, her only major decision in the game was overruled. Therefore they let it stand. Chelsea scored from the resulting penalty, levelling the scoreline at 2-2. Extra time ended, and the game headed to penalties.
To be honest, I thought if it went to pens, Chelsea would win. I thought they had the better keeper, and with Liverpool recently losing to City on pens, I feared a bit of pressure might creep in. I couldn't be more wrong, every red slotted their penalties away with confidence and didn't give Kepa a chance of saving them, too hard and too accurate. Then our big man stepped up when needed, for the final penalty of the shootout, stopping Abrahams with his trailing leg.
Adrian went crazy, what a moment for the lad. There's no better way for a player to feel fully integrated into a squad, than to be a match winner in a big game. You could see in his celebrations, and the whole sides, how much this meant to them. Even the Boss went for a dash to join in, I haven't seen him run so fast since Divock's last minute winner against the blues.
It's a sight we're starting to get used to now, our captain Hendo doing his little shuffle facing the lads, and turning to lift the trophy for the cameras, and I love it. The fact that you have a signature move for lifting trophy's is a sign of lifting a lot of silverware.
So another great night in Turkey, another European trophy, another amendment to the champions wall. But unlike in June, we don't have months to savour our glory, we don't even have days, as we prepare for an away trip to St Mary's tonight. It's going to be a very difficult game, especially with Southampton coming off the back of a very disappointing opening day of the season. They will want to make a big statement here in front of their fans. As we seen at the back end of our last campaign, it's a very difficult place to travel in the best conditions. We came out on top that day with a 3-1 win, but the saints proved very tough to breakdown, a moment of brilliance from Mo putting us ahead, and a goal from El Capitan with a few minutes left to settle the tie. We do not travel there in the best conditions, coming off the back of a very intense 120 minute game against Chelsea, travelling over 6,000 km in a round trip, just two days ago. But we can't afford excuses, we don't have time to complain, we have to go again, and we need 3 points.
These are the kind of games where you need your squad to step up, and really make a claim for a place on the team sheet week in, week out. It's disappointing to see that Keita has had another injury setback, this is the exact opportunity you'd like to see him grasp. But his loss is another players gain. A few players were allowed a bit more recovery time, as they didn't feature for the whole game against Chelsea. Those are the lads I definitely expect to start against the saints, Trent, Gini, Bobby, and Origi. It wouldn't surprise me as well if Ox starts again, with him coming off at half time, he should be quite fresh, and obviously he's looked good in training if he got the go ahead to start in the super cup. Now there's a question mark over Adrians fitness after his heroics led to a freak incident, where a fan crashed into his ankle during the celebrations, just our luck at the moment, but hopefully he's alright for this tie.
My starting 11 prediction:
Trent, Matip, Virgil, Robbo
Ox, Millie, Gini
Mane, Bobby, Div
I think Gomez, Hendo, Fabinho and Mo will be rested for this one, you could see how taxing the game had been on Fab as he went down with cramp with a few minutes to go. I think Mo will definitely want to start, and I don't doubt that he's probably able to with his fitness levels, but I'm predicting he will come on later if needed. It's going to be another intense game, and very difficult to come away with 3 points, but that's our intention and I have no doubt these lads will throw everything they have to do just that.
2-0 to the Reds
I'm still waiting to see a totally dominant performance from the reds in defence, and I think this game will be the start of that. To be honest, I think it's going to have to be for us to come away with anything here. I expect we'll be sitting on the edge of our box quite a lot in this game, but we'll punish them on the counter and get the job done. I hope I'm wrong and we absolutely destroy them in possession and all other aspects of the game. However we're a much more professional unit than we were two seasons ago, and we know at this point in the season, the most important thing is the 3 points. Building a platform for us to build on for the rest of the campaign.
C'mon you mighty Reds, we go again!