Liverpool 6 Leeds United 0: Marcelo Bielsa fails to heed own warning as Reds run riot

Before Leeds United’s trip to Anfield, Marcelo Bielsa admitted their “defensive system needs to improve”.

Then he sent them out to play the same open, entertaining but risky game. Once Liverpool got in front through Mohamed Salah’s 15th-minute penalty, the match stopped going from end-to-end and became one-way traffic.

“Duh, duh, duh, duh... shot on target!” sang the away fans when Liverpool came off the gas a bit at the hour mark and Raphinha shot straight at Alisson.

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Affronted, Liverpool went up a gear (only one) to win 6-0. On top of everything else it meant the Whites have conceded more Premier League goals – 56 – than in the whole of last season.

Liverpool's Sadio Mane (centre right) celebrates scoring their side's fourth goal of the game as Pascal Struijk looks on (Picture: PA)

There was a carefree spirit about them in the opening stages of the game, but carefree was not what was called for. Sometimes when you face as formidable a team as Jurgen Klopp’s at as formidable a stadium as Anfield without your brilliant holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips and his deputy Robin Koch – not to mention other key players – you just have to hold your nose, swallow your principles and keep it tight for a bit.

By the time Bielsa reached for the keys to the stable door, removing his two most attacking midfielders Mateusz Klich and Rodrigo, the Reds had well and truly bolted, 3-0 up.

When you have Bielsa as your coach, you sign up to the whole package, good and bad. The good has been unimaginably good to watch, but the bad is the naivety Liverpool were able to pick off in the first half to cruise through the second, conserving energy for this weekend’s League Cup final.

January signing Luis Diaz served early warning that playing right-back was going to be tough for Stuart Dallas, especially with Raphinha in front of him not the most enthusiastic doubler-up. Jamie Shackleton was given that job in the second half as Dallas moved into midfield.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa sits on the touchline during the Premier League match at Anfield (Picture; PA)

The shot when Diaz made space for himself in the third minute was weak, his effort a minute later more troubling until it hit Sadio Mane.

Leeds looked dangerous too, Dan James tackling Alisson when the goalkeeper got too casual in possession, only for Joel Matip to get back.

A minutes later a sloppy Mane pass picked him out, but Leeds were unable to capitalise.

Rodrigo threaded a good ball from the hole to Jack Harrison, whose cross was cut out.

Sadio Mane beats Illan Meslier (Picture: PA)

It was promising stuff but the risks it entailed proved too costly.

Luke Ayling made a good last-ditch tackle in the 11th minute but shortly after Andrew Robertson’s cross hit Dallas’ hand as he left it out from his body. Salah sent Illan Meslier the wrong way from 12 yards.

You could see Liverpool sensing the opportunity, Curtis Jones pouncing on Adam Forshaw seconds later.

Junior Firpo, given the unenviable task of tracking Salah, did himself no favours picking up a booking after just 18 minutes for a rash tackle on Liverpool’s holding midfielder, Fabinho, at the touchline. He walked the tightrope well to last 90 minutes.

Leeds had one chance of note in the rest of the half – the game, really – breaking through the press to find Rodrigo in good space for a second time in quick succession and watching him thread a lovely pass to Harrison. If Raphinha had only stayed onside before tapping in, it would have been a lovely goal.

That apart, those Leeds fans behind Meslier’s goal not watching through their fingers got too good a view of the next half hour.

The second goal, on 31 minutes, was depressing because it was a cover version of so many of the untracked runs Victor Lindelof had made from Manchester United’s right centre-back berth days earlier.

For Lindelof read Matip, striding out, giving the ball to Salah and converting nicely when the ball was slipped back.

When Ayling clipped Mane in the area minutes later, Salah’s penalty went to the same side but higher.

It took some of Firpo’s best work to deny him a first-half hat-trick after getting in easily behind the Brazilian and dinking the ball goalwards.

After an hour, Liverpool went into power-save mode, allowing Leeds a few sights of goal as Forshaw refused to give up the fight, but they did nothing with them.

Harrison appeared to tweak a muscle with 15 minutes left and when Jordan Henderson ran in behind him in the 81st minute he could only really let him go to pull the ball back for Mane to score the fourth. Two more came in stoppage time, Mane latching onto the save when Meslier ran out to Divock Origi, and an unhindered Virgil van Dijk netting at a corner. The last touch was Meslier’s, who it went through.

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Thiago (Henderson 67), Fabinho, Jones (Milner 76); Salah, Mane, Diaz (Origi 84). Unused substitutes: Konate, Keïta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Tsimikas, Kelleher.

Leeds United: Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Struijk, Firpo; Forshaw; Raphinha, Klich (Shackleton 46), Rodrigo (Roberts 46), Harrison; James (Gelhardt 61). Unused substitutes: Klaesson, Bate, Cresswell, Summerville, McCarron, Kenneh.

Referee: M Oliver (Ashington).