Nottingham Forest 1-0 Liverpool: Player ratings as Awoniyi lifts hosts off the bottom

Grey Whitebloom
Taiwo Awoniyi, formerly of Liverpool, scored the game's only goal
Taiwo Awoniyi, formerly of Liverpool, scored the game's only goal / Michael Regan/GettyImages
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Nottingham Forest climbed off the foot of the Premier League table with a famous 1-0 win at home to Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime, courtesy of Taiwo Awoniyi's second-half strike.

Steve Cooper admitted that his side would have to be "almost perfect in almost all parts of our game" to get a result against Liverpool. Aside from a shocking inability to defend a dead ball - which went mercifully unpunished - Forest lived up to their manager's demands.

The hosts clogged up the central slice of the pitch, funnelling Jesse Lingard and Morgan Gibbs-White back to support a compact midfield three. Liverpool repeatedly tried to weave their way through the thicket of Forest players but regularly ceded possession.

Thanks to Forest's hurried and wayward attempts to transition up the pitch, Liverpool's erratic passing went unpunished.

Awoniyi - the former serial Liverpool loanee - managed to carry a charge into the visitors' final third, holding off Virgil van Dijk to tee up Lingard for a desperately tame swipe into Alisson's gloves.

Liverpool may have been stymied in open play but their threat from dead balls bubbled throughout. From the second phase of a first-half corner, Van Dijk bizarrely chose to try and square the ball to Roberto Firmino, who was as surprised as everyone else in the City Ground that his teammate didn't go for goal.

Mohamed Salah certainly tried to test Dean Henderson from another set piece after the interval but swung at thin air. Taking advantage of a rare burst of chaotic defending from the hosts, Salah seemed to lose the flight of the ball in the October sun.

Forest ultimately sourced the opener through a dead ball of their own. Steve Cook's run changed the angle of the delivery, hooking a low cross into the box. Awoniyi bundled his first effort against the post before snaffling up the rebound in the 55th minute.

In the absence of a counterpunch from Liverpool, Forest went closer to extending their lead. Morgan Gibbs-White was denied a quick-fire second for Forest by a last-ditch block by James Milner as the host swarmed up the pitch from a Liverpool corner.

Ryan Yates forced two saves from Alisson in the final 15 minutes, shaking his head in disbelief while mouthing "unbelievable" in reaction to the goalkeeper's miraculous second smothering.

Henderson, never one to be outdone, produced a jaw-dropping rebuttal of his own, clawing Van Dijk's firm and free header off the line in stoppage time. Yates had been distracted by the presence of Alisson, leaving Van Dijk criminally unmarked as Forest escaped another set piece scare.

Brennan Johnson hit the post with Liverpool's goal unguarded but all three points went to Forest on a famous day for this season's strugglers.


Nottingham Forest vs Liverpool player ratings - Premier League

1. Nottingham Forest (4-3-2-1)

Dean Henderson
Dean Henderson has faced more shots on target than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season / Michael Regan/GettyImages

GK: Dean Henderson - 8/10 - Smothered an early chance for Fabio Carvalho very well before clawing an incredible effort off the line to preserve his side's lead.

RB: Serge Aurier - 6/10 - Desperately eager to spring forward when the chance presented itself but the move had often broken down before the ball could come back to him.

CB: Steve Cook - 7/10 - Perfectly executed his role in a pre-planned set-piece routine to tee up the opening goal.

CB: Scott McKenna - 6/10 - Kept his passing safe and simple in a solid display.

LB: Neco Williams - 5/10 - Up against his former side, Williams was kept very busy by his former teammates focusing most of their efforts down his flank.

CM: Ryan Yates - 7/10 - Quick to get touch-tight to any white shirt that darted venture into the nest of red in the middle third.

CM: Remo Freuler - 6/10 - The central node in Forest's midfield, relieving pressure with his passing and clever winning of free kicks.

CM: Cheikhou Kouyate - 7/10 - Grew into the contest, providing Forest's midfield with a forward and forceful thrust after the break.

RF: Morgan Gibbs-White - 4/10 - Defended diligently but lacked any hint of guile or glitz going forward.

LF: Jesse Lingard - 4/10 - Left his manager waving his hands in the air in exacerbation on multiple occasions.

ST: Taiwo Awoniyi - 8/10 - A potent nuisance throughout, holding the ball up well and imposing himself on Liverpool's centre-back pairing. Surprisingly taken off as early as he was.

SUB: Joe Worrall (64' for Awoniyi) - 5/10

SUB: Brennan Johnson (64' for Lingard) - 5/10

SUB: Renan Lodi (73' for Williams) - N/A

SUB: Orel Mangala (80' for Kouyate) - N/A

Manager: Steve Cooper - 7/10 - Marshalled his side into an obdurate shape which duly frustrated the visitors. Fortunate to not be punished for their abysmal set-piece marking.

2. Liverpool (4-2-3-1)

Roberto Firmino
Roberto Firmino has scored more goals this season than he could muster across the entirety of the previous campaign / Michael Regan/GettyImages

GK: Alisson - 7/10 - Never flustered when hounded after while in possession, Alisson's superb positioning often made Forest's finishing appear lackluster.

RB: James Milner - 7/10 - Turned out another impressive display at both ends of the pitch. Made a goal-saving block before making way earlier than expected.

CB: Joe Gomez - 5/10 - Shifting into the middle of a back-three when Liverpool had possession, the impetus of progressing the ball forward often fell on his shoulders - a role he carried out with mixed success.

CB: Virgil van Dijk - 4/10 - Bizarre decision to turn down a golden chance to break the deadlock. Not faultless but made more logical choices in his own half.

LB: Andy Robertson - 4/10 - Pushed wide but not so high with the space ahead of him taken by opponents and teammates.

CM: Fabinho - 4/10 - Failed to exert any significant influence on proceedings.

CM: Curtis Jones - 5/10 - On his first Premier League appearance of the season, Jones needed an extra touch before getting the ball out of his feet - a luxury he wasn't often afforded.

RW: Harvey Elliott - 7/10 - Seemed to find more time and space on the ball than any other Liverpool player.

AM: Roberto Firmino - 5/10 - Constantly floating around, looking for a crack in the stitching of Forest's compact rearguard which he never found.

LW: Fabio Carvalho - 5/10 - Often guilty of getting muscled off the ball in midfield despite his velvet touch.

ST: Mohamed Salah - 3/10 - Smothered by a raft of red shirts, scarcely getting a sniff of the ball.

SUB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (62' for Milner) - 6/10

SUB: Jordan Henderson (62' for Carvalho) - 5/10

SUB: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (77' for Firmino) - N/A

Manager: Jurgen Klopp - 3/10 - Watched his side produce a painfully predictable attacking display, rarely going out wide or over the top.

Player of the Match - Taiwo Awoniyi

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