EPL

Liverpool assistant Lijnders excited by Elliott's comeback

By Sports Desk January 19, 2022

Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders has expressed his excitement at Harvey Elliott's return to full training, saying that the youngster "didn't lose his football brain."

Elliott has been out of action since September, having dislocated his ankle in a 3-0 Leeds United. The teenager had played in all four of Liverpool's previous games this season.

The 18-year-old returned to full training earlier this week and Lijnders smiled as he was asked about the former Fulham player at a news conference ahead of Liverpool's EFL Cup semi-final second leg at Arsenal.

"Let me say it like this, he didn't lose his football brain," Lijnders said, though he did not put a timescale on Elliott's return to match action.

"He shows immediately what he's about. It would be a crime if you would not play him if he trains like this, but we know it's just the start of the team training. He needs time and we go step by step, of course.

"Some players they never knock on the door, they run through it – and he's one of them."

Elliott, the youngest ever Premier League player, returned to Merseyside at the end of last season having enjoyed a productive loan spell at Championship side Blackburn Rovers, where he registered the joint-third most assists in the division (11), behind only Emiliano Buendia (16) and Michael Olise (12), who is now playing a starring role for Crystal Palace.

He was also the only player in the Championship to register as many as three second assists – which Opta defines as a pass/cross that is instrumental in creating a goal-scoring opportunity – and was eighth overall for successful passes into the final third (519), ahead of the likes of Olise (495), Leicester City's Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (478 while on loan at Luton Town) and Tottenham's Oliver Skipp (441 while on loan at Norwich City).

In his three Premier League starts and one substitute appearance this season before his injury, Elliott created five chances, more than team-mate Curtis Jones (three) has in his four starts and three appearances from the bench, and won possession in the middle third of the pitch (17) more often than Jones (11) and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (12) despite the former Arsenal man making 15 league appearances, seven of which have been starts.

Lijnders also had words of praise for Liverpool's opponents on Thursday, crediting the work that Mikel Arteta has done since taking charge of Arsenal just over two years ago and noting how well the Gunners played in the goalless first leg at Anfield despite going down to 10 men in the first half when Granit Xhaka was sent off.

Arteta, too, has been happy to utilise younger players as he continues to freshen up Arsenal's squad.

"First of all, Arsenal always had really good players but, for me, they have a really good team at this moment," Lijnders added. "I think credit to Mikel, they matured.

"You see many games where the team with 10 men plays better than the 11 – not play better but they give just this extra step, they give this extra [bit] more because they know they have one player less. What happens many times with the 11 players is that they do one thing less because they know they have one player more. That's exactly what happened.

"Anyway, what I like about the Arsenal game is that we wanted to surprise them with our intensity and that's what we did until Xhaka went off.

"I really think that in football the only advantage exists if you go to the last minute of the game, to be honest. Before that, it's quite even. I think Mikel did an unbelievable job. The team is a proper team.

"They were struggling as well with injuries and, how you said, COVID cases and they had to change as well in the last minute, but if you can play with 10 men like that then you have a mature and good team."

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    Eintracht Frankfurt boss Oliver Glasner believes his side cannot reach a higher level, despite their Europa League final win over Rangers on Wednesday ensuring Champions League football next season.

    Glasner was full of praise for his side, who battled from a goal down following Joe Aribo's 57th minute opener for Rangers to equalise via Rafael Borre and force extra-time at 1-1, before claiming a 5-4 penalty shootout win.

    With the Europa League triumph, Eintracht will play in Europe's premier cup competition for the first time since 1960 - where they eventually lost 7-3 in the final to Real Madrid – despite finishing 11th in the Bundesliga this season.

    According to Glasner however, his side's mentality is already that of a top team and as a result, he did not have to provide much instruction during intervals as the match progressed.

    "No, there is next level, it's impossible," Glasner said post-match. "I have to say a bit more about that. This year started difficult, but the players kept believing in themselves, what we told them, what we trained.

    "That shows the character, mentality they have. The spirit developed, today we had players who weren’t eligible for Europe but they were never negative, they were not selfish, they did everything for success. That's why I wasn’t surprised that even when it was difficult, our fans were louder than Rangers' and they pushed us forward."

    "I told the players the most important thing is that the referee doesn’t stress us, we have to control rhythm and I said just go do your thing like we've done so far, and that's it."

    After an intense first half, Eintracht started to see more of the ball as the game slowed down but it did not translate into substantial opportunities and Aribo's opener could have further deflated their play.

    The Eagles maintained in approach and eventually restored parity through Borre, beating Calvin Bassey to the ball and direct Filip Kostic's cross home in the 69th minute.

    Glasner also singled out the 26-year-old Colombian, who scored the equaliser and winning penalty after Aaron Ramsey's attempt in the shootout was saved by Kevin Trapp, claiming the performance and outcome is reflective of the work he puts in.

    "Rafa is incredibly important, not only the goals but he works hard even defensively and at half-time we showed the players some situations from the first half," Glasner said. "We didn’t have the intensity in attack and Rangers defended that well.

    "We had to invest everything, attack the front post and he did that very well. He ran and then had a really good chance. He fought really hard – he deserved it. He was great. He really helps us and is also a leader."

  • Europa League final: Van Bronckhorst stands by Ramsey substitution after Rangers' shootout loss Europa League final: Van Bronckhorst stands by Ramsey substitution after Rangers' shootout loss

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    According to Van Bronckhorst, despite evident disappointment in the changing rooms afterwards, his final list of penalty takers was impacted by a combination of factors including Borna Barisic's inability to take one of the penalties, and pre-match preparation.

    "It was tough, physically, but the players gave everything and gave all their effort on the pitch," Van Bronckhorst said post-match. "I subbed some players because they were struggling physically, but I cannot complain. They gave everything and that's all you can ask as a coach.

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    Rangers created sporadic opportunities, with Joe Aribo's 57th minute opener at the top of the penalty area one of their only four shots in the box.

    The game petered after Borre's equaliser in the 69th, but Ryan Kent had the best chance to win the match in extra-time, only to be denied by Trapp from close range under pressure from Kristijan Jakic.

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    Forty-two years after their last success on the European stage, Die Adler are Europa League champions; defeating Rangers on penalties in Seville after a 1-1 draw that saw both teams show a degree of desperation not to lose, rather than to win.

    It's easy to understand that mentality as well. Eintracht's decades of underachievement may not have crippled them, but there was a sense it was playing on their minds.

    Yet, ultimately it was they who held their nerve in the crucial penalty shootout – Aaron Ramsey's missed spot-kick prolonging Rangers' own European trophy dry spell.

    In that regard, it didn't really matter which way the contest went – either way, one club was going to enjoy one of the all-time great nights in their history.

    Neither had won a European trophy since Eintracht were victorious in the old UEFA Cup in 1980. Eight years before that, Rangers won the Cup Winners' Cup.

    The Europa League may be looked down upon by some, but such barren runs and the generally surprising fact either team made it so far was what helped this contest resonate with so many.

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    It was undoubtedly an apt moniker given the unequivocal impact the two sets of supporters have had on the teams' respective routes to Seville. Rangers had the 'Ibrox factor'; Eintracht turned the Camp Nou into a sea of white.

    At times during the early stages on Wednesday, it felt as if Rangers were trying to stay afloat in a similar expanse of whiteness, such was the greater composure of Eintracht almost all over the pitch.

    Eintracht were more effective with clever steals of possession and appeared to have considerably greater confidence receiving the ball under pressure, allowing quick transitions through the lines.

    Chances flowed at first. Daichi Kamada danced through the Rangers defence and forced a point-blank save from Allan McGregor; Djibril Sow brought a stop from 20 yards on the rebound; and Ansgar Knauff looked destined to score after driving into the box.

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    The Scots' confidence visibly grew as their grip on the contest improved.

    Joe Aribo curled just wide. Ryan Jack drilled just over. Clear-cut chances they may not have been, but they were notable evidence of having settled after a shaky start.

    An Eintracht flurry just after the interval promised greater entertainment, but the Bundesliga side showed no desire to heed the warnings of their only major area of concern, and it proved their undoing.

    Borre was once again comfortably beaten in the air as Kevin Trapp hoofed the ball aimlessly up the pitch. Calvin Bassey's header was flicked on by Sow and Aribo took full advantage of Tuta pulling up injured to slide beyond the goalkeeper.

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