Not many teams could have come to Anfield and put on a superb performance against the reigning Premier League champions on the opening day of the season.
Then again, Leeds aren’t like most teams. Despite walking away with zero points, they pushed Liverpool to the brink in an intense seven-goal thriller – and proved Marcelo Bielsa’s madcap style of football is up to the task in England’s top flight.
There was plenty of praise in the English media for the sleeping giants’ stellar effort. And Liverpool’s players and manager Jurgen Klopp were full of praise for their rivals.
Watch European Football with beIN SPORTS and ESPN on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
“Leeds are special. I said it before the game and in the game everybody saw it obviously,” Klopp said.
“The way they play, the way they defend, the way they go into challenges was really, really good – and for 95 minutes, by the way!
“What a team they are. Unbelievable. I really like it so I will watch them quite often during the season.”
Liverpool’s rampaging offence made them one of the best teams to watch in 2019, but Klopp is right – Leeds will be very, very good viewing this season.
Alan Shearer told BBC’s coverage it was: “A performance full of energy, hope, and loads of belief and confidence. There’s so much to admire about the way they played.”
Football legend Graeme Souness told Sky Sports: “For 80 minutes, Leeds were fantastic. But in the last 10, Liverpool pinned them back and it was only a matter of time before someone made a mistake or someone came up with a piece of brilliance. But Leeds have made a real statement tonight.
“I wonder if they’ve got a big enough squad as they surely can’t play like that every time as it was some effort. Liverpool weren’t at their best because Leeds didn’t allow it. Liverpool normally hunt teams down like Leeds did to them.
“Tonight, Leeds had more possession at Anfield than Liverpool and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before with this Liverpool team.”
Souness is right to talk of Leeds ‘hunting down’ Liverpool. They harried and pressed, making a whopping 33 tackles – the most of any visiting PL side at Anfield under Klopp’s charge.
The effort was there for the full 90 minutes. Where other teams could have fallen apart after Liverpool scored before Leeds had even touched the ball, Bielsa’s boys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and came back harder.
Even when it was 3-3 in the dying minutes they weren’t satisfied. How many times has a promoted side visited the champions and chased a fourth goal to win the game? I can’t remember one.
Phil McNulty for BBC wrote: “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.”
But, he warned: “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.”
That’s certainly true. You can’t gift penalties to top teams and expect to pick up points. Rodrigo – the club’s record signing – made an atrocious tackle on Fabinho to gift Salah his third goal and the three points.
While Leeds were exceptional going forward, that defence will need to sharpen up – and soon.
But, as Liverpool’s towering defender Virgil van Dijk said: “Leeds are going to cause a lot of teams problems because of the way they play. Credit to them.”
If they can cause Liverpool such a headache, there’s little doubt other teams will seriously struggle to keep a lid on the exciting Leeds offence.
Most impressive of all is quite simply how quickly Leeds adapted to life in the Premier League. As Paul Joyce wrote in The Times: “Liverpool are up and running. Leeds are not far behind.”