Not just Salah: Liverpool’s “absolutely superb” 51-touch machine ran the show vs EFC – opinion

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Liverpool finally returned to winning ways in the Premier League after a woeful run of form, defeating Merseyside rivals Everton with a commanding performance which bore echoes of the unrelenting intensity previously seen under Jurgen Klopp.

The Reds have been beset with misfortune this season and have been a shadow of their former vigorous selves, with their previous league victory coming against Leicester City in the final days of December.

While the three points represent a potential turning point for the Reds’ spluttering season, the welcome respite still only drags them up into ninth place in the table, nine points behind Newcastle United – who they face next weekend – in fourth, albeit with a game in hand on the Magpies.

In recent weeks, Klopp has had to watch on as his side – current holders of both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup, but out of both competitions already this year – have been battered and bruised against their opposition, overwhelmed and overrun in midfield and lamenting the failure to grasp a hold of their contests.

In the Merseyside derby, a match where defeat would have left the Anfield masses even more chastened, anything but victory was simply not an option, with their struggling neighbours confined to the Premier League relegation zone and facing a battle to preserve their top-flight status.

Mohamed Salah opened the scoring, clinching his 18th goal of the season and ending a five-match drought, whilst Cody Gakpo slammed in from close range to finally get his first Liverpool goal after his £35m transfer during the winter. Elsewhere, Darwin Nunez was a thorn in the Toffees’ side and forged a dynamic performance which teased his top-class credentials, with the Daily Mail‘s Jeorge Bird noting how the Uruguayan ‘made good use of his pace on the counter-attack to set up Salah’ for the first goal.

Behind the attacking flair, though, it was 18-year-old midfielder Stefan Bajcetic who served as the true focal point, ensuring with a vintage derby display that his offence-minded team-mates had license to prosper in the final third.

How did Bajcetic play against Everton?

His tenacity and vibrancy is one of the chief reasons behind the unwavering faith that Klopp has bestowed upon this young man. As per The Athletic, Bajcetic was “the only Liverpool player to cover more than 11km in the match”, integral in reasserting the lack of intensity which was once so intrinsic to Liverpool’s play.

As per Sofascore, Bajcetic completed 51 touches from his all-encompassing central role, making two key passes, two tackles and one clearance, and his energy from midfield was indeed imperative to his side in rekindling their swagger after a wretched start to 2023.

Some onlookers have been waxing lyrical over the prodigious machine, with his performance yet again belying his tender age, although there is still room for improvement. That will be welcomed by Klopp and co as they continue to nurture the burgeoning development of the 18-year-old.

While the “absolutely superb” – as dubbed by Liverpool writer Matt Addison – Spanish starlet won six duels on the night, he lost out on a further seven, and this is an element of his game which can be developed and nurtured as he blossoms into becoming a first-team regular. It is easy to forget that he is still 13 matches into a professional career which is very much in its embryonic stages.

Lauded by Ben Bocsak for looking “so mature and composed for his age“, Bajcetic is a diamond yet to be fully refined, but the glimmering potential of his early endeavours in Liverpool will have left many associated with the club positively brimming with eager optimism.

There is a long way to go before the Merseyside giants can truly claim that their season has been revived, but with the precocious Bajcetic running the show in midfield, the sun may shine on Anfield again this season.


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