Mohamed Salah’s first-minute strike was cancelled out by Alexander Scholz’s penalty as Liverpool drew 1-1 at Midtjylland in their final Champions League group-stage match.
The Egyptian pounced on a wayward backwards pass to nudge under the goalkeeper – breaking a record set by Steven Gerrard in the process – as Jurgen Klopp rested many first-team stars by naming the Reds’ youngest team in Champions League history.
Midtjylland rallied well after Salah’s opener and were especially threatening in the opening stages of the second half. The hosts made good on their mounting pressure as VAR intervened to award a penalty after a foul by Caoimhin Kelleher.
Scholz made no mistake from the spot and thought he had given his side the lead late on, only for VAR to rule out his effort for offside.
The visitors also saw a late goal chalked off, as Takumi Minamino’s added-time strike was ruled out for a handball by Sadio Mane for the assist.
Here are five talking points as it ended all square at the MCH Arena.
1. Salah breaks more records
Mohamed Salah has grown accustomed to breaking records since joining Liverpool in 2017.
The Egyptian netted a Premier League-best 32 goals in his first season with the Reds and is the fastest player in the club’s history to reach 50 goals.
The latest record to tumble at Salah’s feet was one set by Anfield legend Steven Gerrard himself, as Salah surpassed the former midfielder’s tally of 21 Champions League goals against Midtjylland.
The 28-year-old’s goal came after just 55 seconds, meaning it was also Liverpool’s fastest ever goal in the Champions League.
It wasn’t a vintage, bending left-footed strike which put Liverpool 1-0 up – but Salah’s 22nd Champions League goal for the Reds showed his lethal forward’s instincts and his electric pace to punish a poor backwards pass with a nudged finish.
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2. Youngsters feature again
Speaking of breaking records, the starting XI named by Jurgen Klopp was Liverpool’s youngest ever to play in the Champions League, with an average age of 23 years and six months.
In goal, Caoimhin Kelleher impressed once again in the first half, making an important save to deny Awer Mabil and ensure the Reds went into half-time ahead.
The 22-year-old was left exposed by his defence for the incident which led to the penalty, but he made two excellent saves late on to deny Midtjylland a famous victor, and his aerial claims and punches were excellent.
In defence, Rhys Williams, 19, produced another assured display and was given the time on the ball to show off his composure and distribution.
That being said, Williams understandably looked more shaky once 18-year-old Billy Koumetio replaced Fabinho at half-time, in doing so becoming the youngest player to feature for Liverpool in the European Cup or Champions League.
Arguably the Reds’ most eye-catching performance was that of Leighton Clarkson. Making his third senior appearance, the 19-year-old played as the holding player in the midfield three, keeping the Reds ticking over and filling in at left-back once Kostas Tsimikas succumbed to injury.
“We are bringing in fresh legs, bringing in natural desire,” Klopp told BT Sport before kick-off. “Leighton is one of the biggest talents in our club, there for ages, a midfielder, No. 6 type who can play 8 as well. Very talented, good football player.”
Clarkson lived up to Klopp’s pre-match praise and with natural-midfielder Fabinho continuing to fill in ate centre-back, he may be poised for further appearances over the festive period.
3. Origi squanders opportunity
Divock Origi has played a vital role for Liverpool in recent seasons as the principal back-up to their dazzling front three.
The Belgian has also shown he is a class act in his own right, with two goals against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final and one against Tottenham in the final cementing his status in Anfield folklore.
But Origi has slipped down the pecking order this season and has made just four starts in all competitions.
The arrivals of Takumi Minamino and Diogo Jota this year are a large part of the reason for his diminished role, while Origi did himself no favours with his display in Midtjylland.
Origi had a golden chance to double Liverpool’s lead from Mohamed Salah’s pullback in the first half but fired his effort wide, while he struggled to knit together the midfield and wide men.
It was no surprise to see the 25-year-old taken off for Roberto Firmino in the second half, and his lacklustre display in Denmark will heighten speculation of a potential Anfield exit.
4. Klopp faces right-back decision
Though he was handed the armband, Trent Alexander-Arnold was not as his best as he made his first start since returning from injury.
The 22-year-old usually curls and pings the ball into the box and to the other sideline with ease, but his passing rusty against Midtjylland.
Further, Alexander-Arnold’s poor positioning would have been punished by Sory Kaba’s back-post header but for Fabinho’s stunning goal-line clearance.
Meanwhile, Neco Williams watched on from the bench after helping the Reds keep clean sheets against Ajax and Wolves, picking up the assist for the winner against the former.
With Alexander-Arnold appearing to lack sharpness against Midtjylland, Klopp may employ the same tactic he used against Wolves by starting Williams and replacing him with his more senior teammate in the second half.
Who should Liverpool start at right-back against Fulham? Have your say here.
5. Reds rest tired legs
With a run of three games in seven days looming, Jurgen Klopp was grateful for the chance to rest a number of his starting XI regulars against Midtjylland.
Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were among the players on the bench
“We have made some changes I think you’ll realise that! We’ve changed our lineup to bring in fresh legs,” Klopp told BT Sport before kick-off.
Klopp’s calculated gamble did not bring victory in Denmark, but it may pay dividends in Liverpool’s upcoming Premier League run.
It’s a gruelling run and with a potential title-decider versus Spurs next week, Klopp will need his first-team stars as fresh as possible.
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