It wasn’t a perfect night, with a bevy of wasted chances at one end and a handful of defensive errors cause for concern, but in the end Liverpool got the result they needed to keep the pressure on Manchester City in the race for the top four. And, as midfielder Joe Allen was quick to point out following the match, sometimes that result is all that really matters.
"When you come off the back of two defeats and two disappointing performances, I think the result is probably more important than the performance," reflected Allen following the final whistle’s confirmation of Liverpool’s 2-0 victory last night over struggling Newcastle United. "It was another clean sheet and three points, and you can’t ask for much more than that."
The victory means that Liverpool are now four points back of City with six games to go, which seems a small margin at first glance. On closer inspection, though, the gap is bigger than it first appears. Most importantly, Manchester City have a +31 goal differential to Liverpool’s +11, meaning the Citizens would win a tiebreaker if the clubs ended level on points.
That in turn means Liverpool will need to do five points better than City over the final six matches to finish in the top four. If Liverpool win out at least it’s easy enough to imagine City, on their current form, dropping those points. If Liverpool draw even once in their last six, though, City suddenly have to drop seven. If Liverpool lose a match, City have to drop eight.
It adds up to a situation where, if Liverpool are to have a chance of finishing in the top four, they need to win out—and with a match away to Chelsea remaining on the schedule, few will be especially confident of that. Still, with the gap between them and the top four where it is today, there remains hope, and that hope will remain as long as Liverpool can keep winning.
"Our job is simple," added Allen. "We have to keep piling pressure on the teams above us. We have to take care of our business. I think the other teams understand that we’re going to do everything, so they can’t slip up because they know we’re on their tails. That’s why tonight, playing later than everyone else, it was important we bridged that gap."