Jurgen Klopp once complained his side does not play poorly and win.
It is a claim he is having to refine more often during this most curious start to the season. Liverpool remain a combination of the promising, effective and utterly infuriating yet there they are, level on points with Manchester City and rewriting club records.
Mohamed Salah claimed his 50th goal in English football to defeat Huddersfield, and by keeping a clean sheet Klopp’s side achieved what none at Anfield have done before. Never in 126 years has a Liverpool team conceded three goals or less in its first nine league games. Have the swashbucklers become the bus-parkers? Not quite, but it’s some makeover.
As a package there is much to commend as Liverpool try to ensure City do not repeat last season and begin their surge for the title in autumn. That cannot disguise that this win was scarcely deserved.
Klopp’s gesturing and scolding throughout a sloppy 90 minutes underlined Huddersfield’s ill-luck, the home side particularly enraged by the failure to award a penalty against James Milner shortly before half-time.
When the two friends, Klopp and David Wagner, embraced at the end, Liverpool’s coach looked almost apologetic.
“It may be the first period in my life we win average matches,” said Klopp. “There are different ways to win. I prefer the spectacular way, but I understand why it was how it was.
“I knew it would be difficult after the international break as it always is. I'm not angry, but I think we should expect ourselves to do better. A lot of the things that we couldn't do today was because Huddersfield were good, but when they couldn't do anything anymore, we helped with rubbish passes. I was more animated today because if you are tired you still have to be afraid of your manager."
Certainly, Liverpool have never performed so inconsistent and won so often in the Klopp era. While Salah again took the glory, not for the first time this season victory owed more to Virgil van Dijk’s composure at the back – ably assisted by Dejan Lovren.
Aside from the exquisite move for the winner created by Xherdan Shaqiri, the once trustworthy attackers squandered every counter-attacking threat, displaying an uncanny ability to overhit, misplace or simply not bother to make the final pass.
In mitigation, this was a changed Liverpool line-up. Sadio Mane was absent because of his broken hand. Roberto Firmino was a late substitute, although even he caught the carelessness bug when he eventually appeared.
Adam Lallana was starting for the first time since January 1. Daniel Sturridge was starting his first Premier League game for Liverpool for 10 months.
The hosts were still talking about miracles pre-match, Huddersfield forlornly pursuing their first home goal since April to swell belief their return to The Championship is not a formality.
The post denied Jonathan Hogg after he beat Alisson from 25 yards. The linesman’s flag stopped Alex Pritchard’s celebrations. And the generosity of referee Michael Oliver prevented Huddersfield a chance to equalise when Milner looked sheepish as the ball struck his hand three minutes before half-time. The officials did not see it.
“If it is a case luck evens itself out we will have a lot of luck over the next 29 games. We have no luck so far,” said Wagner. “For a lot of weeks for have performed a high level without collecting enough points.
“I would be more concerned if I did not have the opportunities. We had them. Goalscoring is the most difficult part of this game. This challenge really excites me, to turn this around and make sure everyone stays on board. I will make sure the dressing room seizes it.”
Huddersfield had set about Liverpool with little consideration for reputation, Wagner’s attackers scurrying towards defenders in the manner Klopp normally demands from his front three.
It was an admirable, if risky, strategy, making for a frantic, exciting but generally low-quality game.
Gini Wijnaldum’s introduction at half-time - Jordan Henderson left with a hamstring injury - brought composure and Salah should have doubled his tally on 64 minutes, hitting inches wide when facing keeper Jonas Lossl. Throughout, Liverpool's lead was precarious.
Punishment should have been severe, substitute Steve Mounie failing from close range on 82 minutes. It was Huddersfield’s last chance. They had the right application but lacked quality.
Nevertheless, the sight of Liverpool players running to the corner flag to see out injury time told the story of the evening.
Liverpool are still there, but winning without playing well can only sustain a challenge for so long.
“The basis is brilliant. Twenty-three points and still space to improvement,” said Klopp.
There is plenty for optimists and cynics to pounce on with Liverpool's current form.
Full time: Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Vintage Liverpool? Far from it, and Klopp didn't hide his disgust at the way they failed to put this game to bed, but given the minor ravages of the international break on his squad, the Liverpool manager will have to be satisfied with an awkwardly-won three points.
Liverpool climb to second, level on points (but 10 goals) behind the rampant Manchester City.
90+2 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Liverpool cling on. Huddersfield sub Adama Diakhaby makes an instant impact from the left wing, but Van Dijk is on hand to clear.
90+1 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Four added minutes. Schindler's gone up front for Huddersfield. Kitchen sink time.
89 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Firmino's latest trick: slapping a left-foot shot over the bar, with time to spare, from 18 yards. Klopp not happy.
86 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Liverpool survive a corner and spring out on the counter. Suddenly, it's three against two and Firmino just needs to make the right pass...but he can't find Salah. Meanwhile, to his left, Shawiri flaps his arms in disgust.
84 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
A Firmino handball elicits the mother of ironic cheers from the home fans and period of pressure from Huddersfield, but Liverpool stand firm. For now.
82 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
CHANCE! Cross comes in from the right, Dejan Lovren panics and can only flick out a boot to present the ball to Mounie...but he slashes at it and the ball flies over the bar.
80 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Huddersfield continue to huff and puff, but Liverpool's house is fairly safe from being blown down here. But they ought to have killed the game off themselves by now.
75 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Fifteen to go, and that's time for Roberto Firmino's unique brand of centre-forwarding to make an appearance. Daniel Sturridge was the obvious makeweight, and he's just been booked for kicking the ball away, but it's actually James Milner who is replaced.
73 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Huddersfield make a couple of attacking changes - Steve Mounie has joined Depoitre up front, most notably - so that's their stall set out.
70 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Adam Lallana, who was already looking gassed, is now on the deck with a touch of cramp and some ripped shorts. Meanwhile, Fabinho is being readied to replace him. The Brazilian finally makes his Premier League debut.
66 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Depoitre starts and almost finishes a Huddersfield counter-punch: he slides the ball out to Pritchard and then almost gets to the cross from Hadergjonaj, only for Dejan Lovren to do his job well.
64 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
CHANCE! Salah makes a great run in behind to meet an arced ball from Andrew Robertson, controls the ball on the bounce...but puts his finish wide of the far post. Could be costly (but probably won't be.)
62 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Salah has a shot blocked, and is then flagged offside despite beginning his sprint from his own half! That's about the extent of the drama at the moment.
55 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
CHANCE! Good cross this time from Hadergjonaj and Depoitre stretches to try and head it back from whence it came, but Alisson sticks out his gloves to pluck the ball from the far post.
52 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Depoitre's flick-ons are now Huddersfield's approach weapon of choice, but Liverpool are a bit too canny for that.
49 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Sturridge tries the exact same thing, but this time with his stronger foot. The result is only marginally less wayward.
48 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Sturridge receives the ball on the left corner of the Huddersfield box, twists and turns, and then spoons a right-foot shot waaaay over the bar.
We go again
Liverpool have made a change: Giorginio Wijnaldum is on to replace (the presumably injured) Jordan Henderson. The captain's armband has been passed to the more than capable bicep of James Milner. Off we go for the second half!
Half time: Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Not a cakewalk for Liverpool, by any means, but it took Mohamed Salah's subtle finish to wake up Huddersfield and turn this into a proper game of football. By the end of the half, Liverpool might consider themselves slightly fortunate to still be in front, but we may have seen everything that David Wagner's side have in their locker.
45 minutes to go. I'll bring you them all. In 15 minutes.
43 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Huddersfield erupts with injustice as the ball falls on to James Milner's arm in the box, but the referee isn't interested. Moments later, Alex Pritchard pokes the ball past Alisson and into the net...but he's offside.
38 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Joe Gomez places his studs in the vicinity of Depoitre's face, which rightly results in a free kick. Billing fancies it, and he dips a left-footer from 35 yards....just wide of Alisson's post. The keeper was at full stretch too.
36 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Yellow card for Adam Lallana, for some overenthusiastic closing-down of Chris Lowe as the ball was cleared upfield.
33 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
POST! Depoitre causes a nuisance, the ball is cleared only as far as Jonathan Hogg who clanks a 25-yarder against the left-hand post!
32 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Here's Salah's opener in video form:
�� The Egyptian king! ��— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 20, 2018
Mo Salah is back amongst the goals as he fires @LFC ahead against @HTAFCdotcom in fine fashion! ��
Watch more @PremierLeague clips and highlights in the @SkySports app. Download it here:
30 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
The surprisingly typable Florent Hadergjonaj appears to be Huddersfield's best outlet. The right wing-back speeds down the flank twice in quick succession, only for his final ball to underwhelm.
27 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1
Now it's all Liverpool. They want a penalty after the ball pings off the arm of Philip Billing, but referee Michael Oliver is unmoved.
GOAL! Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 1 (Salah, 24 min)
Very tidy indeed. Liverpool lead, and it's thanks to the lesser-spotted right boot of Mohamed Salah! Shaqiri slides the ball through the right channel, Schindler can't get close to him this time and Salah pokes it into the far corner! His 50th goal in English football.
23 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 0
Christopher Schindler denies Salah the chance to burst through with a superly-timed tackle out on the Huddersfield left, and Liverpool are beginning to stir a little.
18 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 0
Still waiting for some genuine penalty-area excitement, but Liverpool don't seem to be in that much of a hurry to change that.
14 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 0
Huddersfield briefly threaten with a long throw, before Liverpool saunter upfield and initiate some ping-pong on the edge of the box, which flattens Chris Lowe and brings the game to a halt.
10 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 0
Here comes Depoitre! The gigantic Belgian charges down on Alisson, whose clearance pings back off a size 12 boot and out for a goal kick. The home fans roar, Alisson sighs with relief.
8 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 0
"Laurent, Laurent Depoitre will score a goal for you" is an optimistic chant, but chant it the Huddersfield fans nevertheless do. Still very much in the feeling-each-other-out stage of the game at the moment. A sedate pace to it all.
5 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 0
Huddersfield having a little more of the ball so far, but Liverpool obviously posing the bigger threat when they launch their counters. Sturridge and Salah linking up nicely enough, too.
3 min - Huddersfield 0 Liverpool 0
Pitch looks lovely, and Sturridge tries to slide a ball through for Salah, only for the Huddersfield defence to sweep up the danger.
We're under way the John Smith's. Both teams in their proper colours, I'm delighted to report.
Klopp's vox pop
Liverpool have 20 points, Huddersfield have three points. But the table is not the real picture - that’s the first thing our analysts said about Huddersfield when they spoke to the team.
No love lost between these two old foes
Sickening to see two Premier League managers not shoving each other and calling each other asteriskable things, in my opinion.
Is something wrong with Mohamed Salah?
That's the question posed by our man JJ Bull. The answer? Well...
Is he trying too hard to hit the perfect finish? Over-thinking and overriding muscle memory? Or are things simply not going his way on a rare few occasions?
All of this comes off the back of Salah playing half-fit through a World Cup and in a Liverpool front three which hasn't really got going yet. A couple of lucky breaks will lead to restored confidence, which will very probably mean those missed chances become fewer and Salah goes back to exceeding expectations, no matter how ludicrously high his exploits of last season have set them.
This man is fit for Liverpool today, to take his place alongside Roberto Firmino and - making a first start since November 2017 - Daniel "Danny" Sturridge.
Retro corner, Part 1
Huddersfield haven't beaten Liverpool since 1959, for god's sake. Anyway, back nearly 20 years to when these two met in the FA Cup at what was then the McAlpine Stadium, and a slightly Patrick Berger-esque finish from Dominic Matteo to make the game safe at 2-0
TEAM NEWS with @ViessmannUK: #htafc Head Coach David Wagner has made one change to the starting XI for today’s @premierleague game against @LFC; 5.30pm kick-off at the @johnsmithstadia.— Huddersfield Town (@htafcdotcom) October 20, 2018
⬅️ @vanlaparra17#HUDLIV (AT) pic.twitter.com/vAvMNpzjzN
Our man Chris Bascombe summarises it thus:
Lallana not just in the squad. He starts. Salah, Sturridge & Shaqiri play. As does Milner, who evidently is not human. No Sadio Mane. Firmino on the bench.
Fairly beige, but that's the Premier Legaue for you.
�� DW: “leave whatever has happened in the past, in the past. Today is an exciting, but tough, opportunity for us.— Huddersfield Town (@htafcdotcom) October 20, 2018
“Today we focus on our performance, as usual. We must make sure we are brave and perform.”#htafc (DTS) pic.twitter.com/0p8ZEpcNDS
"At one point we have to think do we want opera every night, or every two months? You don't want to see Anthony Joshua fighting every second night. That's not possible."
Not my words, reader, but the words of Jurgen Norbert Klopp. You see, despite the minor excitement of the last fortnight or so, he's not a fan of the extra strain the Uefa Nations League places on the internationals in his squad. And this is why:
The Liverpool manager will have been watching the international break through his fingers, as Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane all reported back to Melwood with injuries, although only Keita (thigh) and Mane (hand surgery) are expected to be ruled out this evening. Meanwhile, just to compound things, James Milner's hamstring may not be ready, so it could mean a full Premier League debut for Fabinho. Not such a crisis after all, then.
Taking all this with a pinch of salt is a certain Mr D Wagner of Huddersfield, former playing and coaching colleague of Klopp and, indeed, best man at his wedding.
"I have known Jurgen long enough," Wagner sighed this week. "I know he loves to use smoke screens. I expect that most of his players will be available."
And that will be a problem for 18th-placed Huddersfield - officially the hardest Premier League team from which to pick a stand-out player for a liveblog's pre-match header image - who are the division's lowest scorers, while their visitors remain unbeaten.
This will be a grind for Huddersfield, but not necessarily a hopeless one. Team news in a bit.