Jurgen Klopp praised Liverpool’s professional performance after they secured a 3-0 win at Norwich on the opening weekend of the new Premier League season.
Diogo Jota got the Reds off the mark for the 2021/22 campaign with a fierce drive in the 26th minute and Roberto Firmino all but wrapped up the points with a goal midway through the second half, having only entered the pitch minutes earlier.
Mo Salah had assisted both efforts and he got on the scoresheet before full-time with a record-breaking strike, becoming the first Premier League player to score on five consecutive opening weekends.
“Pretty much as good as it gets,” Reds boss Klopp said.
“What you need and what you go for is the result. The result depends on the performance and I thought we were absolutely good enough to win.
“It was a very professional performance. I don’t need a 25-minute sensational spell and we lose the game. An away game, against a newly-promoted team, in a packed stadium for the first time, they celebrate everything so I am really happy with how we play.
“We can play better, that is clear, but very happy.”
Klopp on Van Dijk: ‘You could see all his class’
Virgil van Dijk made his first competitive start in 10 months and finished the match to take another positive step in the right direction after he sustained cruciate ligament damage to his right knee back in October.
The return of the talismanic Dutchman was a welcome sight and another was Salah continuing his fine record on the first matchday of the season to put to bed any concerns about his pre-season form which brought a surprise return of no goals.
“Each game helps and it was really good to see Virgil again on the pitch, especially on defensive set-pieces,” Klopp said.
“After that long time being out and the pre-season he had, being back on the pitch feels different, you could see all his class.
“It was hard for him to go for 90 minutes. we’ll see if he has enough time to recover.
After that long time being out and the pre-season he had, being back on the pitch feels different, you could see all his class. It was hard for him to go for 90 minutes. we’ll see if he has enough time to recover.
“And that’s Mo. I would assume he knew about the record and wanted to score.
“A really good game, when you set up the first two goals, which is really cool and then after he scored, he tried to find Sadio (Mane) twice with the pass and Mo is Mo.
“When the competition starts, he goes to the next gear.”
The Pundit view: Van Dijk’s seamless return
📊 Virgil Van Dijk’s contribution on PL return for @LFC
92 touches (most in match)
Completed 79/85 passes
3/4 aerial duels won
Liverpool lost as many PL games (8) following his injury last season as in his 96 PL apps for the club pic.twitter.com/NFAXlbWBFT
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 14, 2021
Jamie Redknapp: “Virgil van Dijk is such a Rolls Royce. He’s a majestic footballer. Players like him don’t come along very often and he’s probably sat and watched Ruben Dias at Man City last year and everyone waxing lyrical about him. I’m sure there’s a little bit in Van Dijk wanting that mantle as the best defender in the Premier League, and for me, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
“You could see the assurance he gives everyone around him. Liverpool cannot win the title without him, but the fact they’ve got him back gives them a much better chance. He’s a phenomenal player that just gives everyone that calmness and confidence around him.”
Karen Carney: “It’s still his first 90 minutes. He can have all the touches he likes but the biggest stat for him is a clean sheet. The pleasing thing for him will be the 90 minutes under his belt and the clean sheet.
“He brings a calmness to the whole team. He has that aura and that presence and he’s only going to go from strength to strength. I think he’s only at 80 per cent at the moment but you only get that last 20 per cent as you play more and more minutes.”
Klopp: ‘It was a great occasion’
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp:
“The occasion was great. It was exactly what we expected and what we’d missed for so long. I applauded the Norwich fans as well because it’s so nice to have fans back, wherever they come from.
“I could see in the eyes of the players they had to get used to it again. Everybody has to get used to the atmosphere. We had to get used to the opponent and the game, but we found a way. It was a very professional performance and I’m happy about that. There were a few occasions where we should have done better, so it was not perfect, but it was about the result.”
Farke praises Norwich effort
There was a party atmosphere inside the stadium before kick-off with Norwich able to sell out Carrow Road for the first time in 18 months.
Boss Daniel Farke was disappointed not to give the fans more but praised the effort of his newly-promoted side who pushed Liverpool hard at the beginning of each half after enduring a difficult summer with an outbreak of Covid-19 cases at the club.
He said: “It was unbelievable to be reunited with the fans and as long as we have that unity with them, I am quite positive and hopefully we can share some great moments this season. I am more confident after this game.
“You are always disappointed when you lose the first game but many, many positive things to take.
“We played against one of the best sides in the world. World-class players, world-class coach and they had a proper pre-season.
“We had many players on the pitch who didn’t have a proper pre-season so I just have compliments for the performance. For 65 minutes we were quite competitive.”
Next up for Norwich is a daunting trip to champions Manchester City while Liverpool are back at Anfield on Saturday to host Burnley.