Football Features

Diogo Jota shows why some say his ‘technical level’ is a match for Mane, Salah and Firmino in Atalanta 0-5 Liverpool

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:15, 3 November 2020 | Updated: 9:37, 30 March 2021

In a stunning night of football, Liverpool absolutely demolished Atalanta in Bergamo.

Jurgen Klopp took a gamble with the starting XI as he dropped Roberto Firmino to play Diogo Jota as part of a fluid attack and the Portuguese rewarded his coach with a devastating performance as he bagged a brilliant hat-trick to power the Reds to a huge win.

One of the biggest question-marks over the Liverpool side last season was “who would replace Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané or Roberto Firmino if they got injured?” It was a question they never really had to ask, but it hung over the side. Divock Origi would do for the odd game (#CornerTakenQuickly) but over the long grind of a season his talent deficiency was going to be exposed.

Diogo Jota, then.

Signing for Liverpool in the summer for £41m, Jota looked a smart signing from the off. Like Sadio Mané he was lithe, quick and possessed great stamina as well as an eye for goal.

Before he had even debuted, Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders called him a “pressing monster” that would “fit in straight away.” Now these were catchy, Klopp-esque quotes, but what was really eye-popping was when he said: “Diogo, what can I say? His technical level is on the same as our front three.”

That is a massive claim to make about a player, but here we are, not six weeks later, and Diogo Jota has 7 goals in his first 10 games for Liverpool (he reached that milestone faster than anyone has this century). 6 of those have come in his last 4 games, during which he has scored two opening goals, two game-winners and a massive hat-trick. And even his first goal, way back against Arsenal, settled that game. That’s serious production.

Tonight against Atalanta he got the start ahead of Roberto Firmino and made broad comedy the idea that Firmino was in any way essential for Liverpool’s attack to work. Not that the Brazilian isn’t a sublime player, but this game showed that the Reds don’t need him to win.

How were the Reds going to cope with the absence of Virgil van Dijk against the high-powered attack of Atalanta? How were they going to protect young Rhys Williams and Joe Gomez? They were going to throw it back to 2017/18, bust out the guitar, turn the amp all the way and let rip with a thundering riff.

This was rock n’ roll football with Diogo Jota shredding lead guitar. The Portuguese opened the scoring with a scorching run in behind the defence was capped with a wonderfully delicate chip over the hapless Marco Sportiello. He made it two just after the half-hour mark when he pulled a long ball from Joe Gomez out of the sky, switched it back onto his right and thundered it in at the near-post.

Jota then took a rest of assaulting his fretboard and allowed Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané to both score delightful goals of their own before capping the night with a stunning hat-trick. 54 minutes into the game (oh yeah it was only 54 minutes into the game) Jota was sent streaming through 1v1 by a simply magical pass from Mané and then, with Sportiello racing out to meet him, the Portuguese took a sublime touch to drifted around him with ease before finishing calmly with his left for his first-ever Liverpool hat-trick.

Not even an hour gone, and Diogo Jota had shown in the most emphatic fashion exactly why Liverpool bet on him, exactly why Pep Lijnders said he was on the same level as their front-three, and exactly why Jurgen Klopp was happy to put him in for Firmino tonight.

This match was a huge boost for neutrals, as it signifies a return to the kind of rock n’ roll football that so thrilled us all two years ago. This match was a huge boost to Jurgen Klopp as it all but guaranteed qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

This match was a huge boost to Alisson at it gave him his third consecutive clean sheet in the Champions League (and one that he definitely had to work for, stopping some hefty Duvan Zapata shots in the second-half). This match was a huge boost to Rhys Williams, as that clean sheet will give him confidence going forward.

This match was a huge boost to everyone… except for Liverpool’s opponents. For them it was an ominous warning, because not only have the Reds won hugely (that’s now five straight wins since the Merseyside derby), not only have they scored five goals to mark that occasion and prepare superbly ahead of their clash with Manchester City, but Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards have only gone and done it again.

Liverpool’s head honchos have found a player perfect for their system, a player who has fit in seamlessly, a player who will now allow them to rest one of their fantastic front three and still put out a fearsome front line that no one in Europe will want to contend with. And don’t think he’s going to stop here, just like Firmino, Mané and Salah before him – you just watch Diogo Jota rise and rise to become one of the very best players in the world.