Liverpool 3 Mané 8’, Coutinho 31’, Origi 60’
Everton 1 Pennington 28’
The thing I love about football, the absolute best thing about it, is that it’s everything.
Because it’s everything, the football is never just about the football. Because when we come to the football— in the stands or at the pub or in bed because it’s 6:30 in the damn morning— we bring everything we are with us. And what we are is messy. We bring worry and boredom and grief and fury. We invite friends over to our house and we drag dates to the pub and we bring our kids to the match. Football threads itself into the fabric of our lives.
Liverpool had the neighbors over for the 228th Merseyside Derby, and derbies are never ever just about the football. Today was about Top 4 chances and Everton’s new stadium and the Koeman/O’Neill spat and the Everpool Diner and communities and preventable tragedies and more than a century of intensely personal history. And in the prelude to kickoff— death.
A tribute and minute's applause for Ronnie Moran. pic.twitter.com/S3Ax5utgkh— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 1, 2017
The thing about memorials for the dead is it’s not actually for the dead. It’s for us. We’re the ones that have to find a way to go on living without them. The fact of someone’s death is always a past problem; the fact that someone isn’t here anymore is a present problem, and a future problem. It is fitting and correct that the derby was also the game where Liverpool honored Ronnie Moran, and there’s no doubt the man would’ve appreciated it if he could see. But the tribute isn’t just to honor the man who was the bedrock of Liverpool Football Club for the half century that encompassed its golden age. It’s to help us try to make sense of things, and to start figuring out who and what we are now without him. I don’t actually know what the world or Liverpool Football Club will look like without Ronnie Moran, and we’re all going to have to start figuring that out now.
In the midst of life, we are in death. (Et cetera.)
It’s never just about the football. But there is football. And I keep trying to summon words to describe the football and all I can think about is this.
It’s not the whole story, obviously, but I think you can show this GIF to someone and they’d get a pretty good sense of how this went down.
Everton had their moment. They always have their moment. And sometimes the moment is enough. They won a corner, and we can’t defend set pieces, and their new wunderkind-apparent Matt Pennington scored his first-ever senior goal to level the score. In front of the Kop. The kid’s already a hero for that lot.
And it helped that the official went easy on Ross Barkley and allowed him to finish the match despite committing misdemeanor assault. There’s no point in re-litigating every incident, but you saw it and I saw it, and we can just leave it at that.
GONNA BANG ON ROSS BARKLEY'S WINDOW IN ME LUCAS LEIVA MASK— John Gibbons (@johngibbonsblog) April 1, 2017
They had their moment but Liverpool Football Club could not, would not be cowed. Sadio Mané put us ahead early; under pressure from two defenders, at a weird angle, from only barely inside the box, and he somehow found the gap and hit a daisy-cutter to the far post. And three minutes after Pennington’s equalizer, Philippe Coutinho, a literal sorcerer who bends reality itself to his whim, hit a gorgeous curler to put the Reds back in front. And right on the hour mark, Divock Origi banged one in to seal the deal.
These things can be nervy, and us Liverpool fans have been conditioned to not take anything for granted. Maybe today would’ve been the day Everton break their winless streak at Anfield. But today wasn’t like that. Liverpool were basically in control throughout and did enough plus a bit more to deserve the win. Today was the kind of Derby we all more or less hope for (unless you really hate the Ev, in which case we fell five goals short of requirements). Today... today was good.
Or, the football was good, at least. Maybe you’ll go on and have a good day too. But a lot of folks won’t, because life isn’t always kind. We still have to go to work and pay bills. We still worry about our kids and our parents. Cars will be stolen. Britain is still Brexiting. Partners will still fall victim to violence. And people we care about will still die.
Football is the best because football is everything. Because it’s never just about the football. Because it makes us feel everything we can possibly feel. And because even when it’s good, it can still break your heart.