As referee Michael Oliver blew the full-time whistle at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp mouthed the word “wow”.
It was the fitting end to a seven-goal thriller between Liverpool and Leeds that had absolutely everything and ended 4-3 to the hosts.
Klopp’s defending champions led three times only for newly-promoted Leeds, playing in the Premier League game for the first time since 2004, to hit back three times.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side were minutes from a deserved point when Mohamed Salah scored from the penalty spot after new £30m striker Rodrigo produced a shocking 88th-minute challenge on Fabinho.
It ensured Salah started the season with a hat-trick – but that was probably not even the main headline in a game dripping in drama and entertainment.
‘What a game. What an opponent’
Klopp said he had to catch his breath after a stunning match which was played at a near-empty Anfield because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“What a game, what an opponent, what a performance from both teams. A proper spectacle, I loved that,” beamed the German afterwards.
“It is pretty rare you see that many goals in a game,
“We will not go home and have a few beers on that result. We need to analyse it.
“Leeds are special. They performed outstandingly and it was very difficult – for 95 minutes, by the way.”
Leeds’ Argentine boss Marcelo Bielsa said there were pluses in defeat.
“To be able to score three goals is a positive thing,” he said.
“We also cannot ignore we conceded four goals. A lot of those goals could have been avoided.
“You can’t predict football but there are situations you know are going to happen – just because you know they are going to happen it doesn’t give you the security you can stop them happening.”
Leeds striker Patrick Bamford, who scored his side’s second goal, told BBC Match of the Day: “There are positives we can take from this but we’re going to be down because we didn’t get the result.”
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk described the game as “very intense” before adding: “I enjoyed the win for sure. We knew it was going to be tough.”
‘It’s always fun with Bielsa’
Salah became the first Liverpool player to score a hat-trick on the first day of a league season since John Aldridge against Charlton in 1988-89.
Despite defeat, Leeds’ performance won praise from Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy, who played under Bielsa at Marseille.
Leeds’ Germany defender Robin Koch, who recently joined from Freiburg, said it had been a “thrilling” debut.
Best ever Premier League opening game?
So, it was a belter of a season opener.
But was it the best game on the first day of the season in the Premier League era? Here’s some of the best, see what you think…
Crystal Palace 3-3 Blackburn
Blackburn had just been promoted to the top flight and Kenny Dalglish unleashed a young striker by the name of Alan Shearer on Selhurst Park.
In a see-saw match, Palace twice took the lead only for Blackburn to hit back, before Rovers went in front through Shearer after 81 minutes. But there was then last-minute drama as Simon Osborn scored a 90th-minute equaliser.
Arsenal 2-4 Norwich City
This Premier League concept must have looked an immediate winner back in 1992. Two crackers on the very first day of the inaugural season.
Arsenal looked to be coasting at 2-0 up with 21 minutes to go, only for Norwich to stage a stunning comeback with a Mark Robins double and goals from David Phillips and Ruel Fox.
Sheffield Wednesday 3-4 Tottenham
A seven-goal thriller, yes. But best remembered for the introduction of Jurgen Klinsmann’s dive celebration, after scoring his first Premier League goal for Tottenham.
Southampton 3-4 Nottingham Forest
It’s got to be a belter if Matt Le Tissier scores a hat-trick and ends up on the losing side. Ultimately Bryan Roy’s double would help see Forest over the line.
Derby 3-3 Leeds
Hello Derby, welcome to the Premier League. The Rams’ first season in the revamped top division started with a bang. Five goals in the last 18 thrilling minutes culminated in Dean Sturridge’s 88th-minute equaliser for the home side.
Middlesbrough 3-3 Liverpool
The most famous hat-trick in the history of Premier League opening days? Middlesbrough came from behind THREE TIMES to secure a point against Liverpool, with each goal scored by debutant and 90s Premier League icon Fabrizio Ravanelli.
Charlton 2-3 Chelsea
It started with Charlton’s Paul Konchesky scoring and getting sent off in the first 26 minutes. And it ended with Carlton Cole and Frank Lampard striking in the final six minutes to secure a brilliant turnaround for Chelsea.
Reading 3-2 Middlesbrough
Two-nil down after 20 minutes in your first ever Premier League game? No bother for Reading, who staged a Royal comeback through Dave Kitson, Steve Sidwell and Leroy Lita.
Arsenal 4-3 Leicester
So, it seems there was a drought of more than a decade in genuine topsy-turvy thrillers. But this one was worth the wait. Trailing 3-2 with seven minutes left, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud struck to secure victory for Arsenal in an opening day classic.