Christmas came early for the Red half of Merseyside, as Sadio Mané was quicker to the rebound and broke 94 minutes of deadlock at Goodison Park. Some fans are already comparing it to Gary McAllister’s game-winning free kick at the death to deny the Toffees a point in 2001.
Late goals are special in football, and in big games, doubly so. Some of those who are critical of football—particularly those of the American persuasion—note the lack of goals as the reason for not liking the sport. But it is exactly this reason why the sport can produce moments like none other.
In recent weeks, Liverpool fans have watched chances flash just wide of the post, deserved penalties not given, and world class saves to ultimately deny the Redmen all three points. Football is a game won, drawn, and lost by the finest of margins, and it is this fact that makes a late-winner all the more special.
Steven Gerrard scored a whopping 186 goals for Liverpool. Quick, think of his most famous ones. Chances are, your mind immediately flashed back to “Oh you beauty!” Or perhaps his stoppage time equalizer against West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup final. Neither were game winners, per se, but they were game changers. The first allowed Liverpool’s Champions League aspirations to continue (eventually ending in Istanbul), the other took the final to extra time (eventually allowing the Reds to win on penalties). It might takes us a few extra seconds to remember his other cup final goal, or the fact that we needed to beat Olympiakos by two clear goals to make it through, but we remember those strikes instantly and prominently.
Watching football as a fan is a tense affair. We’ve all watched our team dominate the game, only to concede a decisive goal against the run of play. For 90 minutes it feels like anything can happen, and often it does. However, as the clock approaches that hour and a half mark, and things aren’t going our way, we start mentally preparing ourselves for the coming result. This is how I felt on Monday night. I was fully prepared to accept the scoreless draw against Everton.
Of course, Monday night didn’t end in a draw. The late goal raised our spirits and hopes for the season, whilst the Blues were once again crushed by their rivals from across the park. It didn’t come from a moment of individual brilliance, like so many of Stevie G’s last-gasp chances. Nor did it come from quick and direct interplay, like we’ve seen so often under Klopp. It was a sloppy, slightly fortunate goal, but that didn’t matter at all in the end.
When we think back about this game in a few years, we won’t remember the painful first 94 minutes. We won’t remember Everton’s early domination. We won’t remember Ross Barkley’s red card that should have been given. We won’t remember Firmino’s goal-bound volley from a corner, denied by the back-up keeper. We’ll remember Mané’s late winner.
It was a great moment. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way in, we’ll have this memory for years to come. Now, if we could just get back to the business of smashing teams off the park, that would be grand.