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Anfield’s African star proving to be a gem

MOMENT OF TRUTH: Matip (number 32) concedes a penalty in the match between Liverpool and Chelsea on January 31

LIVERPOOL HAVE had a highly impressive season to date and even recent blips cannot detract from that fact. Key to the Anfield side’s progression has been Cameroonian-German centre-back Joel Matip.

Matip, 25, has been solid in defence this season and was at the centre of the action once more as the Reds entertained champions-elect Chelsea on the last night of January.

The atmosphere at the start was electric, especially considering that Jurgen’s Klopp’s Liverpool were coming off four straight losses.

It was a promising start for the Reds and Matip, born in Bochum to a German mother and a Cameroonian father, seemed to keep Blues’ danger man Diego Costa quiet. What impressed me most about Matip was his passing prowess with an 80-yard pass to Phillipe Coutinho delighting the home crowd. He would however have his work cut out with Costa who was looking for the foul on a couple of occasions.

Midway through the first half Matip again looked solid breaking up a strong Chelsea attack. But all that hard work was to be undone by a delightful free kick by David Luiz in the 25th minute.

The problem with Liverpool’s apparent lack of form is not with the defence but with a desperate need for a prolific goal scorer. Matip did manage to contain and keep Costa quiet for most the first half.

The summary of the first half is Liverpool started strongly but quickly ran out of ideas after the goal.

The second half saw Matip come under greater pressure but he displayed character in the heat of battle and his well timed sliding tackle ultimately led to a piercing Liverpool attack and the equaliser by Georginio Wijnaldum.

We were now set up for a tremendous second half.

Liverpool were flying at the start of the second half but Chelsea always looked strong on the attack. But despite that, Matip did always have a reassuring presence.

But as is the nature of football, things can change quickly. With just 15 minutes of the match to go Matip was adjudged to have felled an opponent and the referee awarded a penalty to the visitors.

To concede so late would have spelt disaster for the Reds. Yes, it was a rash but light challenge considering Costa was dropping like he had been hit by a train every time someone went near him.

Matip’s blushes were spared when his ‘keeper, Simon Mignolet, made the save from Costa’s spot kick.

Still at 1-1 the game was hanging by a thread but Liverpool were having the majority of the play yet Chelsea looked the most likely to score. The end result was a fair one with both teams not creating many chances.

If I was to sum up Matip’s game; he was solid for the majority of the game but his passing was a bit off key. He is undoubtedly a strong asset to a team that needs some more players if they are to be contenders for the Premier League title.

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