Match Review: Luton 1-1 Liverpool

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  • LFC Toronto fans gathered to watch LFC draw at Luton Town

Match Review: Luton 1-1 Liverpool

Hopefully, Luis Diaz’ dramatic 95th minute equaliser to rescue a point for Liverpool will turn into a prelude to the rescue of his dad in Colombia.

Even Hollywood’s writers would be hard pressed to come up with a better script... a player besieged by family worries half the world away, professionally stepped into the mix 7 minutes from the 90th and ended up salvaging the situation for his team.

This spared Liverpool from some blushes as the Reds’ visit to Luton Town was initially thought to be a Sunday walk in the park in view of the recent forms of the two teams.

Well, think twice.

Once upon a time, Kenilworth Road was one of the most tricky grounds to which the opposition absolutely loathed to travel.

Their then infamous synthetic “plastic” pitch imposed an unfamiliar set of conditions which visiting players could barely get used to: the ball had a higher bounce from the ground, studs had a different grip on the surface and so on.

Those were the days of the old First Division. Now, in the Premier League era, their stadium has become unique as compared to those of the other clubs which have ever been in this top echelon.

A unique configuration which is not a given to get used to for the modern-day visiting players.

Kenilworth Road holds only 11,000 spectators, even less than the capacity of The Kop alone.

Being restricted right in the middle of a tight residential area, space is at a high premium and therefore the front rows of spectators are literally hugging the touch lines and the bylines.

Although some nostalgic souls see in it the charm of how football stadiums of yore used to be, visiting players usually feel a hostile home crowd breathing down their necks; a proximity they would experience to a far lesser extent in other Premier League stadiums.

Despite this highly unusual configuration, Jurgen Klopp’s players again showed their fighting spirit so as not to leave empty handed.

Liverpool actually dominated

The final result of the game actually did not reflect the action on the pitch.

Liverpool created most of the chances with some 25 odd attempts, had almost 75% of possession while Darwin Nunez could have had a hat-trick inside the first 15 minutes. Only a more clinical finishing was the missing ingredient.

Luton had the typical game plan for not losing: a backline of five defenders, the 10 outfield players getting behind the ball when the opposition is in possession and try to sneak the odd goal on counter attacks.

The map of average position of Liverpool players after the final whistle showed they were centrally cluttered just beyond the half-way line and not even stretching towards the wide areas (who wants to get within touching distance of the home crowd?)

Credit to Luton for well executing their game plan though. This map of average position is evidence they kept their intended tight and compact shape to repel the opposition, possibly with the help of their supporters who were literally at hand.

They absorbed wave after wave of Liverpool attempts and their goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski pulled off incredible saves.

In the first half alone, he denied Nunez twice in addition to Diogo Jota. Our Uruguayan striker was also unfortunate to hit the crossbar while long range efforts by Mo Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold respectively flew above and was blocked by the home defence.

Teams having such fruitless slew of attempts would eventually show signs of discouragement and Liverpool were trending in this direction after the break.

A different 2nd half

A lack of composure by the Reds was all there to see as they were even struggling from a rather disjointed team play.

On the 53rd minute, an uncharacteristically below-par Dominik Szoboszlai took a corner short towards Alexis Mac Allister who ended up getting yellow carded while trying to recover the ball. The Argentinian will now miss next weekend’s Brentford game.

The Hungarian endured the wrath of his teammates who were expecting him to cross the ball into the box because dribbling into Luton’s compact defence had so far proven to be futile.

And that was not the nadir of Liverpool’s lack of composure. On the 70th Nunez missed a sitter from 3 yards out after Salah had headed the ball down for him. Instead of a simple close range tap-in, the Uruguayan inexplicably sent the ball above. Klopp was not impressed at all.

For their part, Luton were also gradually coming out of their shell and Alisson Becker previously had to pull a spectacular save from Carlton Morris on the 63rd.

If their defensive game plan had worked well until then, the intent to nick a goal on a counter attack also paid off.

On the 80th minute, they took advantage of Liverpool appealing for handball to launch a counter attack which substitute Tahith Chong converted while the VAR check was on going. A devastating reversal of situation more frequently seen in Liverpool’s style of play.

In fact, we can attribute the final outcome of this game to the substitutes as Diaz’s equaliser was assisted by Harvey Elliot who was introduced just after the hour mark.

The 20 year old lofted a delightful cross from the right to find Diaz on the other flank. The Colombian wanted it more as he rose higher than Issa Kaboré to finally head Liverpool in the score sheet.

This can only do a whole world of good to Lucho amid his current family ordeal.

For some in the Liverpool camp, this result would be a glass half-empty, especially on the back on how the Reds have been reaping points this season.

But this was still a display of the team’s fighting spirit with substitutions again proving to be judicious ones.

And the season has a long way to go. Things are bound to happen to the other teams at the top of the table. On Saturday, Arsenal tasted defeat for the first time this campaign and we leapfrogged them to third place.

As a show of support after the final whistle, Luton’s captain Tom Lockyer went to put his arm around the man who had just denied 3 points to his team which is already in the relegation dogfight.

As Klopp once said, football is the most important of the least important things in life.

Mike Chung.