One week after a hard-fought win against Everton, Liverpool unlocked another defensive-minded team at Anfield.
Contrary to the corresponding 3-2 fixture last season, the Reds were able to score 3 against Nottingham Forest without the visitors stubbornly coming back as an annoying rash like they did when they last visited L4.
A comprehensive win to follow the 5-1 against Toulouse in the midweek Europa League fixture. The reloaded Liverpool are showing they can also put the so-called lesser teams to the sword.
Contrast this with January – February 2021 when some visiting teams came to Anfield with parking the bus as their only game plan against the then-reigning Premier League Champions.
Liverpool were struggling to find answers to those compact and defensive units. Admittedly they were also greatly missing the famous Kopite support during that Covid-era of no spectators in stadiums.
But that’s no longer so nowadays. With Tottenham and Arsenal winning earlier, it was imperative for the Reds to bag the 3 points in order to keep in touch with the table toppers.
And there was hardly any doubt about their ability to do so despite a rather slow start that saw Liverpool immediately taking the game to Forest after kick-off.
However, Steve Cooper’s players were quite successful in containing and repelling the home side's attempts which were mostly from wide areas, the only space left from the compact Forest team.
Patience has been the hallmark of Liverpool players during recent times and they had to show it once again as they probed from all directions during the initial two-thirds of the first half.
Nunez, Nunez, Nunez
Around the half-hour mark, things finally switched gears when Darwin Nunez’s shot on target was blocked by Forest keeper Matt Turner. It would have been quite a goal if it had gone in owing to the tight angle of the Uruguayan.
But that was only a foretaste of things to come. Last weekend, Alexis MacAllister launched a counter-attacking move from deep in Liverpool territory which led to the Reds finally putting the Merseyside Derby to bed.
This time, the Argentinian repeated the same on the 31st minute to open the score, dispossessing a marauding Murillo before setting Mo Salah down the right flank.
With Nunez also forging forward alongside our Egyptian King, anticipation shot up that chaos will happen.
And chaos did happen. Salah passed to Nunez who then released a fierce shot which was parried by Turner. Who else was around to follow-up… Jota the Slotter blasted it into the net as the Forest keeper desperately scrambled back on his feet.
A typical counter-attacking goal as we all like it, poignantly dedicated to the absent Luis Diaz who unfortunately had to deal with a family situation back in Columbia.
For the second time in four days, Nunez did most of the hard work and his unsuccessful final shot at the Kop end goal provided a golden opportunity for a team mate to capitalise with easy conversions.
Thankfully, our Number 9 duly got his deserved reward four minutes later, adding his name to the scoresheet.
A Virgil Van Dijk clearance from Liverpool’s penalty box found Diogo Jota on the left. The Portuguese switched flanks by laying the ball along the half-way line to Dominik Szoboszlai who after a one-two with Salah, ended up at the Kop end byline.
A cutback of the Hungarian found none other than Nunez to blast it in the roof of the net.
A dazzling move reminiscent of the Salah – Firmino – Mané era. It’s delightful to see this new group of strikers carrying the torch of such legacy.
Down by two goals, Forest had no other option than to finally be more adventurous, thereby opening the game which benefitted Liverpool to carve out more chances.
Just before half-time, the already busy Turner made two spectacular saves in succession from long-range attempts by Ryan Gravenberch and Man-of-the-Match Szoboszlai.
With Liverpool leading and in control of proceedings, it was quite surprising that the second half started rather flat and remained so for a long period, for the ensuing 30 mins as a matter of fact.
It was widely expected that Liverpool would go for the killing and put the gloss on an emphatic scoreline.
A two-goal lead was probably a comfortable cushion against this Forest team but one sudden goal by the visitors would have immediately switched things to game on.
Or was this another display of patience with the Reds not really forcing the issue for the sake of not putting undue strain on their physical fitness?
Nonetheless, our Egyptian King still had not put his name on the scoresheet and he remained fully alert for opportunities.
A long diagonal from the left by Szoboszlai on 76th minute saw Turner messing up his clearance near the centre circle, probably petrified by Salah who was lurking nearby.
Our Number 11 simply had to chest down the ball before finishing into an open net for a direct route-one goal which completely turned around a Forest throw-in.
At this point it was all but game, set and match despite 2 heart-in-mouth attempts by Anthony Elanga that ended against the crossbar and just above.
Cody Gakpo could also have made it 4-0 in injury time but his close-range tap-in from a Harvey Elliot cross was offside.
Despite the outcome of this encounter having hardly been in doubt, Jurgen Klopp still celebrated with fist pumps towards the Kop.
After matches having been turned around, results extricated from defensive sides, this was a professional and comprehensive victory which was more of the Red Machine steamrolling along.
The progress of this reloaded Liverpool side continues to walk on.