I don’t ask much from this team. I don’t even ask much from this sport. All I ask of Liverpool Football Club is that the teams they send out are the best possible versions of themselves. That they’re aware of who they are, who they represent, and what they’re capable of, and then perform well enough to justify that faith.
If I get frustrated with the team this year— and at various points over the past decade and change— it’s when they come up short of that. There are times when this team feels capable of so much more, but they never seem to get out of second gear.
I don’t think today’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea was out of a lack of effort. Liverpool gave it pretty much everything they had. But they came up short in a game where they really should’ve won, and I find myself having a difficult time coping with that.
The opening act of the game was, perhaps unsurprisingly, disconcerting. Liverpool ratcheted up the pressure from the word Go, forcing Chelsea to turtle themselves early as the Reds flooded forward. But nothing came of their work; in the attack, the ball frequently fell to James Milner (returned to central midfield for inscrutable reasons), who would piss it away needlessly. The game was set up for a Chelsea gut-punch goal against the run of play.
And when the visitors got a few good shots at goal after the 20th minute, our collective anxieties appeared to be validated. Simon Mignolet earned his dinner by the half-hour mark, but counting on him to bail us out this often and this early seemed a recipe for disaster. Our fate was rushing to meet us, and it appeared to bear the visage of Eden Hazard’s stupid face.
This set the tone for the rest of the half. Chelsea would win the ball back in their own half and quickly storm the cycle. Hazard and Alvaro had some close calls but Liverpool somehow, somehow, managed to escape. All in all, a goalless draw at halftime seemed pretty great.
The second half didn’t start off much better. There was more pushing and shoving, and more set pieces, but for the most part the tenor and tone was the same as the first half. By the time the hour mark came around the prospect of this thing ending 0-0 began to loom large.
If this match ends 0-0, Jose Mourinho is going to sue Chelsea for intellectual property theft.— Brooks Peck (@BrooksDT) November 25, 2017
It’s worth noting: Daniel Sturridge acquitted himself well. He provided much of Liverpool’s attacking verve— such as it was— and had a few decent chances. He justified the faith placed in him with the start.
But it was Mohamed Salah that ultimately put Liverpool ahead; in the 65th minute, he threaded the needle through Chelsea’s back line and finished cleanly.
The goal was Salah’s 15th for the season. 10th in the Premier League. It’s still only November.
After the goal, the game settled into a predictable— if somewhat frantic— pattern. Chelsea laid siege to Mignolet’s goal, desperate for an equalizer. Liverpool’s back line held on as best they could. Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tried to spark the odd counter-attack. But for the most part, Liverpool were just trying to hang on.
But you’ve seen this movie before. Chelsea threw an attack together and Willian hit a diagonal cross into the box. The ball ended up sailing into Mignolet’s net and Chelsea celebrated on our grass.
That was dumb. Super dumb. Poor touch by Hendo started it, Migs misjudged it, Liverpool really should have brought some pace on earlier to offer a counter threat but they didn't.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) November 25, 2017
Fuck off— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) November 25, 2017
Klopp, at least, wasn’t happy with a draw. With five minutes remaining plus stoppage time, Adam Lallana (finally back from injury) and Sadio Mane checked into the game, hoping to make the difference in the dying moments.
It wasn’t enough. Liverpool went on to drop points at home against the defending champions.
It’s a fair result, all things considered. But Liverpool surrendered a lead late for the second time in less than a week. And today, with Tottenham dropping points at home to West Brom (lol), the Reds had an opportunity to climb back into the Top 4 if they held on to the lead. They couldn’t, and they didn’t.
This, I think, is at the heart of some fans’ frustrations with this side. We see what they’re capable of, and we see them fall short of it all too often.