The summer months are long and tedious, and there’s only so many times I can bang out the same [insert winger here] to Liverpool story. While not summer yet, I thought it would be fun to start a series looking at some of the biggest goals of the 2017/18 campaign.
Technically Georginio Wijnaldum’s strike against Middlesbrough was not in the 2017/18 season. But without it, it’s easy to imagine a universe where the run to the Champions League final (and hopefully more?!) never happened.
Like this year, Liverpool went into the final day needing a result ensure Champions League football, and to stave off a run from a resurgent London side that most had written off as dead and buried. Unlike this year, Liverpool needed a win, not a draw, or dropped points from the resurgent London side (in this case, Arsenal). And unlike Chelsea this year, Arsenal did us no favors, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead while the Anfield faithful held their collective breath.
The first half dragged on as Kloppo’s men tried to find a way through, snatching at chances that never really tested the ageing Brad Guzan. And a clumsy moment from Dejan Lovren very nearly gifted Middlesbrough a penalty against the run of play.
Just as it looked like the two sides would go into the half on level terms, a moment of pure magic from an unlikely hero. Nathaniel Clyne played the ball into the feet of Roberto Firmino, who in turn, expertly played in Georginio Wijnaldum with first-time backheel around a defender. Gini took a touch into the box, and then drove an unstoppable, venomous strike into the near top corner, leaving Guzan no chance.
Early second half goals by Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana put the tie to bed, leading to a seemingly comfortable 3-0 final day win, and pipping Arsenal by one point to fourth. But without that first strike to break the deadlock, that match, and this season, could have ended up very different.
The result very well might have been more significant than “just” Champions League football. The patience and determined, steady build-up in attack on display became a hallmark of the 2017/18 team, one that was far better at seeing off the bottom half teams than Liverpool teams of the past.
And of course, securing Champions League football helped with the recruitment of superstars Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, without whom such an impressive run would not have been nearly as likely.
Gini’s goal-scoring record in 2017/18 tailed off quite a bit from his previous season, only adding his name to the scoresheet twice in comparison to the six tallies from last year. But he still had one more major contribution: a goal that would ultimately book our place in the Champions League final. But that’s a story for another day.