Summer signing Ryan Gravenberch made his first start for Liverpool yesterday and, as full debuts go, the Dutchman certainly impressed.
Florian Flecker give LASK an early lead, but a second-half turnaround thanks to goals from Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah left the Reds 3-1 winners on their return to the Europa League on Thursday.
It was a familiar story for Liverpool who gave up the first goal for the fourth time this season and struggled to gain momentum in the opening stages. However, the presence of Gravenberch gave the Reds hope, with the young Dutchman putting in a classy performance which helped his team right the ship in the second half.
Ryan Gravenberch key stats vs LASK
One of the main attributes that stood out from Gravenberch’s game yesterday in the Europa League was his ball carrying. On a number of occasions the £34m midfielder span his marker with a beautiful first touch, before driving the Reds forward in incredible fashion.
LASK players were forced on a few occasions to bring the Dutchman down, who was fouled a total of four times, the most of any player on the pitch.
Just 21 seconds into the game, with his back to goal he flicked a Kostas Tsimikas pass around the oncoming Flecker, who whipped out the midfielder, and was very lucky not to receive a booking.
This was a mark of things to come from the 6ft 3in midfielder, who shrugged off that horrible challenge and continued to annoy LASK players the whole night, who struggled to get anywhere near the 21-year-old.
📊 Ryan Gravenberch vs LASK
Most recoveries: 9
Most chances created: 4
Most fouled player: 4
Big numbers from the big man 🇳🇱 pic.twitter.com/uc4PGKChly
It was just his press-relieving qualities on show. Gravenberch was also an attacking force against LASK, creating four chances (again the most of any player), while signing things off with his first assist for the Reds.
In the 63rd minute, Gravenberch made a lung busting run down the right flank and was found by an inch-perfect Harvey Elliot pass. Still sprinting towards the ball, with no sign of slowing down, the Dutchman swung a fierce ball into the on-rushing Diaz, who finished ably to give Liverpool the lead.
The midfielder’s centre of gravity and balance was a joy to watch for the Reds, who could clearly see just why Jurgen Klopp was so keen on bringing the 21-year-old to Anfield.
One final stat that shone for Gravenberch was his nine recoveries over the course of his 74 minutes on the pitch. Another highest score by any player on the pitch, the Dutchman was first to the loose ball on multiple occasions, cleaning up the midfield whenever he could.
For some comparison, Jordan Henderson averaged 4.6 recoveries per game in the Premier League, with Fabinho averaging five per match. With his performance on Thursday, Gravenberch looked every inch the perfect upgrade to Liverpool’s midfield.
What did Jurgen Klopp say about Ryan Gravenberch?
It may just be LASK, but as his fitness continues to improve after a lack of gametime last season, Gravenberch could become a monster in Klopp’s midfield.
Speaking about his new star's first start, the manager said: "Ryan, played an exceptional game, on a difficult pitch, a great assist. In the first-half, he started so well and then got lost with the rest a little bit. In second-half when we had the counter-attack again and the last touch when he was pretty tired. If that goes to Lucho, I'm sure he can score from there so little things didn't work out but in general, as long as you're not in the best shape you always have to react again, again and again. We did it so that's good."
Speaking after the game Gravenberch called his own performance 'good' but 'sloppy' as he eyes further improvement.
“We didn't start so well,” said Gravenberch, “but we had the mentality and we turned it around again, so I was very happy with the game.
"For myself, it was good but also sloppy sometimes, so I have to work on that, and the rest was OK, “ said Gravenberch.