Wijnaldum kicks off Liverpool’s Champions League return

Liverpool

Georginio Wijnaldum secured a return to Champions League football for Liverpool with an inspired performance against relegated Middlesbrough. The midfielder scored the first and assisted the third as his side picked up three vital points in their final game of the season; a 3-0 win at Anfield.

First half nerves combined with goals for Arsenal and Man City to give the Reds a seemingly goalless draw heading into the second half, yet Wijnaldum stepped up in added time to smash in a fierce shot at the near post. The Dutchman picked up the ball deep in his own half, before exchanging passes with Roberto Firmino and bursting into the Middlesbrough box. Gini was the reason Liverpool picked up so much confidence as the second half began, as his 46th-minute drive finally broke a rigid Middlesbrough defence.

His opener changed the mood in both his team-mates and with the fans as they began to believe, and his work-rate and determination to find the opener proved just how much he wanted to win the game. He then turned provider just ten minutes later in the second half with a clever header to release Adam Lallana, who made no mistake from six yards. Both his goal and assist demonstrated his attacking ability, and his capability of combining with the deadly forwards at the club.

His first half goal was his 17th in the Premier League, and incredibly they’ve all come at home, with six at Anfield and 11 for his former side Newcastle at St James’ Park. His £25m arrival at Liverpool last summer certainly raised a few eyebrows, but the midfielder undoubtedly has a lot of strengths and plenty to offer as the season’s progress. Gini has contributed with several vital goals this campaign; none more so than in the 1-0 win over City and the 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

In the final game of the season, his strength and power shone along with his knack for scoring goals, and fans will unquestionably want to see more from the Dutch international in the coming years. His defensive strengths are evident, but his latest display proved just how much he could contribute going forward, with his aptitude for linking up with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Lallana particularly noticeable.

With important interceptions, short quick-fire passes and countless through ball attempts throughout the game, his performance was exemplary when his side needed nothing but a victory. The midfielder was also allowed to express himself as the game drew to a comfortable closing, with little flicks and tricks completing his impressive display.

Wijnaldum has been an ever-present in the Liverpool midfield this season, and should the Reds eventually seal an elusive Champions League group stage return, he will no doubt continue to be an important cog in Jurgen Klopp’s machine, and will hopefully play a central role in the revival of the club.