Leeds United made a dramatic return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence as they produced a magnificent display only to lose to a late penalty in a thriller against champions Liverpool at Anfield.
Liverpool, back in action after winning their first title in 30 years, led three times but were pegged back on each occasion by Marcelo Bielsa’s fearless side before this superb match was settled by hat-trick hero Mohamed Salah’s spot-kick.
Leeds looked to be leaving Anfield with a fully deserved point only for new £30m striker Rodrigo, on as a substitute, to produce a shocking challenge on Fabinho in the 88th minute, leaving Salah to give Liverpool victory after a serious scare.
Salah made it a nightmare start for last season’s Championship winners when he drilled home a penalty in the fourth minute after his shot was handled by another Leeds new boy, Germany defender Robin Koch.
Leeds produced the perfect response as Jack Harrison drilled a low right-foot shot past Alisson only for poor defending to allow Virgil van Dijk to restore Liverpool’s advantage as he headed in Andy Robertson’s corner.
Van Dijk was badly at fault when he gifted Patrick Bamford Leeds’ second before a searing strike from Salah completed the scoring in a chaotic first half.
In a game which also contained four disallowed goals, Leeds were not to be brushed aside and were level again after 66 minutes when a perfect first touch and volley from Mateusz Klich flashed past Alisson.
Man of the match Salah had the final word, however, after that reckless late challenge from Rodrigo.
Leeds so unlucky to lose
The presence of manager Bielsa alone will add to the theatre of the Premier League and his vibrant, attacking Leeds United side already promise to decorate the top flight.
Leeds could have feared the worst when Liverpool capped a rampant opening spell by scoring from the spot even before the visitors had secured possession in the opposition half.
Not a bit of it.
Leeds got on the ball, were bursting with energy and attacked Liverpool every time they had the chance, playing with confidence and self-belief.
Three times they went behind but not for one moment did their heads drop or was their positive intent diminished, as proved by the manner in which they fought their way back into the game.
The final injury was cruel but self-inflicted, Rodrigo’s ludicrous challenge on Fabinho drawing the inevitable penalty that cost Leeds a point.
There was so much to admire about Leeds in an attacking sense but there is also an air of naivety which they must address otherwise plenty of teams will fancy scoring goals against them.
Leeds conceded two penalties and from two set-pieces, although Salah scored a quite brilliant volley when they failed to clear a free-kick.
Bielsa and Leeds have created a hugely positive impression from what was arguably the toughest test of all, away to the champions on the opening day.
In the end, however, they had only Rodrigo to blame for giving Liverpool the chance to gratefully snatch victory.
Reds survive real scare
Liverpool got the job done courtesy of Salah’s late penalty but this was an uncharacteristically sloppy display from the champions that relied on that Rodrigo challenge to get three points.
Salah was in imperious mood up front but elsewhere Leeds were able to hurry Liverpool out of their stride and run through their midfield in a manner which would have disturbed manager Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool were also occasionally shambolic at the back, cut open far too easily with even the normally unflustered Van Dijk knocked out of his stride, committing an awful error for Leeds’ second goal, while Trent Alexander-Arnold had a game he will want to forget.
Alexander-Arnold was rescued by the offside flag when he bizarrely headed Harrison’s lob into his own net and he will lead Liverpool’s relief at getting three points.
In attack, though, Liverpool have players such as Salah who can rescue them from any hazardous situation and so it proved again here.
Man of the match – Mo Salah (Liverpool)
Up and down for Van Dijk – all the stats
- Liverpool extended their unbeaten home league run to 60 games (W49 D11) – only the third ever run of 60+ unbeaten home games by a side in English top-flight history, after Chelsea’s run of 86 ending in October 2008 and Liverpool’s run of 63 ending in December 1980.
- This was only the second ever Premier League game played on the opening matchday of a season to see five goals scored before half-time, after Man Utd 5-1 Fulham in August 2006 (4-1 at half-time).
- Liverpool have conceded 3+ goals in back-to-back home league games for the first time since September 1982.
- Liverpool have now won each of the past 35 Premier League games in which Mo Salah has scored – he has now overtaken Wayne Rooney’s competition record of 34 consecutive wins when scoring from September 2008 to February 2011.
- Virgil van Dijk scored his 10th Premier League goal for Liverpool – more than any other centre-back in the competition since his club debut in January 2018. Each of his past nine such goals have been headed.
- Van Dijk has made two errors leading directly to a goal in his past four Premier League games, more than he registered in his first 154 appearances in the competition (one).
- Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich were the first players to score on their Premier League debut for Leeds United since Nick Barmby in August 2002 against Manchester City, and the first to do so in an away game since Alan Smith in November 1998 – which was also at Anfield against Liverpool.
Liverpool have a full week to prepare for their next game at Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday, 20 September (16:30 BST), while Leeds are in Carabao Cup second-round action at home to Hull on Wednesday (19:45).
- 66Alexander-ArnoldSubstituted forMatipat 89′minutes
- 4van Dijk
- 8KeitaSubstituted forFabinhoat 58′minutes
- 14HendersonSubstituted forJonesat 66′minutes
- 9FirminoBooked at 76mins
- 17Hélder Costa
- 19HernándezSubstituted forRobertsat 62′minutes
- 43KlichSubstituted forShackletonat 81′minutes
- 9BamfordSubstituted forRodrigoat 62′minutes
Match ends, Liverpool 4, Leeds United 3.
Second Half ends, Liverpool 4, Leeds United 3.
Rodrigo Moreno (Leeds United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Joel Matip (Liverpool).
Attempt blocked. Robin Koch (Leeds United) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Kalvin Phillips with a cross.
Substitution, Liverpool. Joel Matip replaces Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Goal! Liverpool 4, Leeds United 3. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Penalty conceded by Rodrigo Moreno (Leeds United) after a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty Liverpool. Fabinho draws a foul in the penalty area.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Jamie Shackleton.
Attempt blocked. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Sadio Mané.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Robin Koch.
Attempt blocked. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Substitution, Leeds United. Jamie Shackleton replaces Mateusz Klich.
Attempt blocked. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Curtis Jones.
Robin Koch (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Curtis Jones (Liverpool).
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Mateusz Klich.
Attempt blocked. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Mohamed Salah.
Attempt missed. Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.