Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had Huddersfield Town counterpart David Wagner as the best man at his wedding but the German word for sentiment — gefuhl — did not enter his mind for a moment last night.
The duo have been good friends since 1991 when they were young players at German club Mainz and their respective families remain close.
However, for 90 minutes at the John Smith’s Stadium, that friendship was firmly put to one side as Liverpool got their season back on track with a clinical and ruthless victory thanks to goals from Emre Can, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah.
A 4-3 win over Manchester City earlier this month had appeared a landmark moment for Klopp’s side, only for them to perform so dismally in a 1-0 defeat to bottom side Swansea City and then suffer the humiliation of an Anfield FA Cup exit at the hands of West Brom.
From being a sound bet to finish in the runners-up spot behind City, Kopites were starting to worry about whether they would definitely finish in the top four and secure a Champions League place.
Likewise, the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona seemed less of an issue when Liverpool were running riot against Pep Guardiola’s side.
However, the creative brilliance of the diminutive Brazilian — or rather Liverpool’s lack of urgency to replace him in the transfer window — was suddenly being pined for.
It was imperative that Klopp’s side deliver a timely reminder of their qualities and while they were not quite back to brilliant best against the Terriers, this win will have done much to settle the nerves.
It also ensured Klopp maintained his record of never having lost consecutive Premier League matches since he took charge of the Reds.
Huddersfield’s eye-catching start to the season, meanwhile, is something of a distant memory with the club now firmly mired in a relegation battle.
Curiously Klopp left record signing Virgil van Dijk on the bench, as he paired Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip at centre-back while skipper Jordan Henderson featured in a league game for the first time since December.
Huddersfield made four changes from their last league match against Stoke as Wagner opted for a 5-3-2 for the first time this season.
This was the first meeting between the sides in Yorkshire since Liverpool won 1-0 at Leeds Road in February 1972 and it was visitors who began with most assurance.
Liverpool dominated possession early on, although midfielders Jonathan Hogg and Aaron Mooy snapped at the heels of Klopp’s men as the Terriers lived up to their nickname.
And the home side almost grabbed a lead against the run of play when Chris Lowe’s cross found Laurent Depoitre on the edge of the box, but the Belgian striker failed to generate quite enough power with his effort and Loris Karius made a diving save.
However, Liverpool made Huddersfield pay as they went ahead midway through the half thanks to Can’s deflected goal from the corner of the box.
Andrew Robertson’s high cross was headed clear by Christopher Schindler and Can seized upon the ball to strike a low shot which glanced off Philip Billing before it nestled into the corner of the net.
The German midfielder is out of contract in the summer and Italian side Juventus have not been backward in coming forward in their desire to bring him to Serie A in the summer.
It is a far from ideal situation, but to Can’s credit there has been little in his performances to suggest his focus is on anything else but the task in hand.
The Terriers were then presented with a free-kick in a dangerous position, and the travelling fans behind the goal breathed a sigh of relief when Lowe’s curling effort flashed just past the post.
On the stroke of half-time Liverpool tightened their grip on the game as Firmino added a second with Huddersfield’s Jonas Lossl guilty of a basic goalkeeping error.
Neat Liverpool interplay saw Firmino pick up the ball on the byline and the Brazilian fired the ball between the smallest of gaps left by Lossl at his near post from a narrow angle.
Liverpool twice went close immediately after the interval with Lossl keeping out Sadio Mane’s header and James Milner’s long-range effort.
Huddersfield’s fans vociferously appealed for a penalty when substitute Colin Quaner went to ground but referee Kevin Friend waved away the appeals.
Indeed, it was the visitors who were awarded a spot-kick with 12 minutes left when Billing used his arms on Can inside the area and Salah confidently sent Lossl the wrong way with an emphatic conversion.
Klopp and Wagner warmly embraced at full-time — back to being mates again.
Lossl 5; Hadergjonaj 6, Kongolo 6, Schindler 5, Jorgensen 6, Lowe 7 (Ince 79; 6); Mooy 7 (Van La Parra 79; 6), Hogg 7, Billing 5; Mounie 5 (Quaner 64; 6), Depoitre 5
Substitutes not used:
Coleman, Hefele, Smith, Van La Parra, Pritchard, Ince,
Karius 7; Gomez 6, Matip 6, Lovren 7, Robertson 7; Can 8, Henderson 7 (Wijnaldum 83; 6), Milner 6; Salah 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 83; 6), Firmino 7 (Solanke 89; 6), Mane 7
Substitutes not used:
Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Ings,
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