A rapturous reception greeted the double change, laced with excitement and relief. It was a new signing and a new beginning and if the Anfield public were happy simply to see Luis Díaz and Harvey Elliott on the pitch, they had further reasons to celebrate Jürgen Klopp’s substitutions. The January buy made an encouraging debut, the teenager made the ideal comeback and a day that threatened to be awkward for Liverpool started to assume a near-perfect look.
For Díaz, an assist 11 minutes into his Anfield career was perhaps all the more auspicious given Klopp’s indelible association with pressing. He harried a dozing Perry Ng out of possession to tee up Takumi Minamino for Liverpool’s second goal. For Elliott, their third was his first for the club and while it was taken beautifully – the winger taking a touch to control Andy Robertson’s cross and swivelling to dispatch a half-volley – perhaps his presence on the pitch was a greater achievement. It was 147 days since he dislocated his ankle against Leeds, when the immediate reaction was to fear for his future. A swift return had a stylish conclusion.
And yet, even before Díaz’s introduction, Liverpool had evidence of Klopp’s aptitude for forward thinking. The previous attacker they recruited with Porto on his CV had already underlined his catalytic qualities. Diogo Jota cushioned Liverpool’s passage into the last 16 just as he propelled them into the Carabao Cup final. He has ensured they navigated a month without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané while progressing in the knockout competitions.