Sturridge, Firmino and Wijnaldum on target after Salah becomes third Liverpool player to miss a penalty at Anfield this season.
Friendship put to one side for 90 minutes as Jurgen Klopp gives David Wagner a reminder of gulf in class between Liverpool and Huddersfield
For the winner, three points, a peck on the cheek and a little respite. For the loser, an unnecessary reminder that the gulf between the haves and have nots cannot be bridged every week by effort and organisation alone.
David Wagner was quick to acknowledge that Huddersfield Town beating Manchester United was “extraordinary”. This was more ordinary, an unexceptional Liverpool victory rendered memorable for the involvement of friends and family and a couple of statistical streaks.
Daniel Sturridge delivered the 100th goal of his club career, ensuring it mattered not that Liverpool have missed their last three penalties at home. He made it an uplifting occasion for Jurgen Klopp, spared the inquest that followed the 4-1 thrashing at Tottenham Hotspur. Instead of a probe, he got a kiss from Wagner, his best man; his Huddersfield were second best on this occasion, at least in the second half.
“Before and after the game, it was strange,” the Huddersfield manager admitted. The close relationships were not confined to the technical areas. Half-brothers Georginio Wijnaldum and Rajiv van la Parra faced each other, at least until the Huddersfield winger limped off in the first half. The more decorated sibling stayed on and scored, Wijnaldum finding the net with a rising shot after a pass from Mohamed Salah.
He completed the scoring. Sturridge opened it. The fact his century was brought up almost 10 years after his first goal highlights the injury problems of a potent finisher, but also his slide down the pecking order. But for the absences of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana, he may not have started. Instead, he delivered only his second goal at Anfield in 2017.
He was aided by Huddersfield’s captain. “We concede the assist,” lamented Wagner. Tommy Smith may have been hapless. He certainly felt luckless. He had already given away a penalty when Alberto Moreno aimed a pass for the Brazilian. The right-back intervened, but headed the ball straight to an unmarked Sturridge. He deftly beat Jonas Lossl.
The busy Firmino also got on the scoresheet. Liverpool can seem a byword for dead-ball difficulties. This time they could celebrate when a goal went in from a corner. “The second one, after a set piece, felt like Christmas,” Klopp said. Firmino got far enough away from Aaron Mooy to meet James Milner’s delivery. Mathias Jorgensen had a right to feel aggrieved: he had spared his side a goal seconds earlier, meeting Firmino’s cross before Sturridge could, but Liverpool still doubled their lead.
Anfield breathed a sigh of relief. “Big relief,” Klopp said. “The pressure was there. I could hear it. People didn’t like the first half too much. Tottenham was the worst game we played in the season and you can’t ignore it.”
Wagner concurred. “I haven’t seen Anfield so quiet,” he said. Liverpool had compounded their own problems as history repeated itself. Like Milner and Firmino before him, Salah missed a penalty. Liverpool have not scored one on Merseyside in 2017.
When a Huddersfield goalkeeper saved spot kicks in May, Klopp was crying tears of joy. Not this time as Lossl flung himself to his left to deny Salah. The Egyptian had scored an injury-time penalty to take his country to the World Cup. He could not hold his nerve to put his side ahead. It was a reprieve for Smith, who had dragged Firmino back.
“I have no idea why he whistled,” Wagner said of the referee Kevin Freund. “If there was holding, then I think we have to have five or six penalties in the game.” But the catalytic intervention came not from Friend, but Wagner’s best mate.
“It was not too difficult to fix,” Klopp said of his half-time team talk. A team accused of kamikaze tactics had seven men behind the ball to prevent the counter-attack. Klopp made them more positive, but was quick to note they also kept a clean sheet.
He tried to retain all of the defence who were found so wanting against Tottenham. “I thought it made sense,” he said. “I will not change after one very bad performance.”
Instead, Dejan Lovren, substituted after half an hour then, injured his groin in the warm-up. Ragnar Klavan stepped in and Liverpool’s much-criticised rearguard had few alarms.