Liverpool’s forwards were almost back to their best with the comfortable 3-0 victory over Huddersfield, yet it was midfielder James Milner who stood out in the dominant display at Anfield.
The 31-year-old surprisingly kept his spot in the starting 11 as Emre Can remained on the bench, yet it was a wise decision from Jurgen Klopp as the midfielder provided a key link between attack and defence as the Reds eased past Huddersfield, whose tails were up after a fantastic win over Manchester United last time out.
There was no such giant-killing at Anfield however as three second-half goals saw Liverpool take all three points in a somewhat tense afternoon for Klopp’s men. After a hugely uneventful first half, Milner inspired his side to take a hold on the game with countless crosses into the penalty area from the right-hand side. After Daniel Sturridge’s opener, Milner’s curling corner found the head of Roberto Firmino to make it 2-0 to the home side. Liverpool’s deliveries from set-pieces have been hugely disappointing throughout the season, so fortunately the former England international was on hand to distribute pinpoint corners, while defender Joel Matip perhaps should have added another from an excellent Milner delivery.
Milner worked tirelessly both in attack and defence all afternoon, and perhaps should have taken the spot-kick that was missed by Mohamed Salah, which meant that no side has missed more Premier League penalties than Liverpool (34, level with Arsenal). Milner’s penalties are usually accurate, so it certainly was a surprise to see him replaced by the Egyptian, but fortunately for Liverpool it had no effect on the final score.
The midfielder found space well in a tightly packed midfield, which, for Liverpool, has taken some criticism over recent weeks for allowing goals in too easily, yet this was not the case in the straightforward victory on Saturday. The veteran undoubtedly improved as the match went on – as did his side – and was instrumental in finding the feet of Firmino, Salah and Sturridge as they tormented the away defence all afternoon.
Milner may keep his role in midfield for Wednesday’s visit of Maribor to Anfield, and may well be retained for the trip to London to face West Ham the following weekend, yet the return of Philippe Coutinho to full fitness may well see the 31-year-old retake his somewhat familiar place on the substitute bench.