Liverpool 3 Salah 31’ 41’, Coutinho 68’
I hate the entire concept of bogey teams. I hate the idea that there could be some sides which will seemingly vex us until the sun expands and consumes everything we’ve ever known. I hate that of all the stupid superstitions I end up believing, one of them has to be this. But mostly I hate how these teams make me feel in the run-up to matchday. I hate Crystal Palace. I hated Hull for a while. Lord Almighty how I hate Chelsea.
And I’ve come to absolutely despise Southampton. I hate that we always seem to struggle to get a result against them. And I hate that a tough but mostly beatable team can come to Anfield and fill me with this kind of existential terror. I resent it, and I resent them for it. How dare they. How very dare they.
Partly due to the unease ahead of the game, partly because of the team’s awful start to the 2017-18 campaign, and partly due to the gray chill of November, I felt myself starting to despair. Fingernails were chewed. Floors were paced. Sylvia Plath poems were read. I was psyching myself up for a bad day.
And it all turned out to be for nothing, as Liverpool beat the crap out of Southampton to the tune of 3-0.
I have to say, the existential terror returned as soon as I saw the teamsheet. Lovren and Klavan. TAA back on the outside. Matip out, Lallana still not back yet. I thought we were going to get eaten alive.
The terror, thankfully, abated after kickoff. I’m not sure I would’ve preferred the interminable boredom of the opening 20 minutes instead of the terror, but that’s where I was at. Things eventually picked up— Georginio Wijnaldum forced a save from Fraser Forster, and a Philippe Coutinho free kick (which ultimately sailed into the Annie Road seats) filled me with hope for the future. But mostly the opening movements of the game left me bored and only slightly bereft.
I also couldn’t help but notice my gaze drifting towards Southampton’s backline, toward a certain Dutch defender who was acquitting himself well. If this were Twitter I’d make a “this could be us but u playin” joke. I don’t know why I do this to myself.
At the half-hour mark, though, everything changed. Mohamed Salah evidently thought it was time for his side to stop playing around and put them on top. First, with an incredible curling shot from a tough angle at distance, and then with a clever run to pick up a Philippe Coutinho throughball and get himself in alone on goal for a clean finish. This put him at nine goals through twelve Premier League games, beating Robbie Fowler’s previous record. Yup.
Mohamed Salah, world-historical babe— ⚽️ is a Country (@FutbolsaCountry) November 18, 2017
All of a sudden the terror dissipated. The clouds broke and the sun shone brightly. (Or it would’ve, if this weren’t late November in England.) Thoughts demurred on the first fresh strawberries in spring and picking wildflowers for your best girl. Such was the change in mood for Liverpool fans. (Or at least me. It might’ve just been me, to be honest.)
Regardless, Liverpool went into halftime up 2-0 over their bogey team. If you’re looking for reasons to feel good about life, you could do much worse.
The second half began much like the first, though perhaps with a touch more bite with Liverpool and Southampton players getting in each others’ faces. With the visitors’ backs against the wall, Liverpool coming close to a third goal a couple times, and being forced to make a critical substitution before 60’ (Dusan Tadic off for Charlie Austin), I’d probably be a little testy too.
After roughly 20 minutes of near-misses and light shoving, Liverpool got the third goal they were chasing. Coutinho finished off a rebound after Roberto Firmino’s close-range shot was blocked, and for all intents and purposes, that was it. There was still nearly half an hour left to play, but both sides knew where this was going. Jurgen Klopp started pulling off his attackers for midfield reinforcements to lock things down. Southampton players started eyeing the clock, wanting nothing more than to just shower and go home.
The whistle ultimately blew for the 3-0 win and Liverpool took a much-deserved round of applause. This win in this game was important. But more important, there’s a sense that the crap start to the season might finally be behind us. Three league wins on the bounce (plus the victory over Maribor before the break to put us on the cusp of Champions League knockout round football) have put Liverpool right on the doorstep of the Top 4. Some more wins and a couple lucky breaks and we could be back where we belong.
Eventually the storm clouds break.