The Anfield crowd didn’t show it much in their performance, loud and rambunctious even after their side went down a goal early, but tonight’s game had more than a little deja vu about it, feeling quite similar in many ways to that Champions League clash with Atlético Madrid back in march of last year, before everything shut down.
With three players missing following positive Covid-19 tests, the ghost of Omicron was heavy in the air, but the Reds put that all to the side for 90 minutes and produced a performance that more than earned the final scoreline.
Mo: It gets pretty dull to point out that Mohamed Salah is pretty good every week, and to be honest he didn’t have his greatest game in a red shirt tonight, but after scoring and/or assisting in 15 consecutive Premier League games, the Egyptian has equalled Jamie Vardy’s record, and is thus on the verge of breaking another one.
Stuck in a drawn-out contract negotiation, Salah has decided to simply play out of his skin this season, and looks set to continue putting the record books to shame as he attempts to win both as many trophies as possible and also the sort of wages he feels he deserves.
You quite simply love to see it.
The Defense: Much has been made about the Reds’ attack this season — and rightly so, they maintain nearly a three goals per game average and look destined to break a hundred on the season — but tonight marked the third consecutive game where Liverpool have prevented their opponents from accumulating more than 0.3 expected goals, while conceding a total of 12 shots across those fixtures.
That they did so again tonight without perhaps their two most important defensive contributors in Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho makes the feat all the more impressive, and although Newcastle weren’t entirely harmless, getting into dangerous situations on a few occasions and forcing an incredible intervention from Trent Alexander-Arnold in the second half, their goal came from a 20-yard belter that Shelvey puts into the stands nine times out of ten.
The combination of attacking and defensive dominance on display from this Liverpool side is an incredibly rare one — teams can usually only master one of the two at any given time — and if it continues, it’s difficult to see how they end up trophyless at the end of the season.
Sadio: Roberto Firmino came on for twenty-odd minutes today and notched an assist, for laying the ball back to Trent before the scouser battered an unstoppable effort into the top corner. Easy work for Bobby.
Sadio Mané, on the other hand, ended the match with zero goals or assists, despite doing all the hard work in the lead-up to both of Liverpool’s first two goals, first turning and finding the pass to Diogo Jota before the equaliser, then pouncing on Jonjo Shelvey’s loose pass and forcing a save from Dubravka despite being clearly fouled by the last man.
It was a game that in some ways typified Sadio’s season, where all his efforts were instrumental in producing the team’s results, but will leave no mark on the stat sheet, and thus will be forgotten by those who live by top line numbers only.
Hopefully he can get back to his scoring ways sooner rather than later, so he can receive the adulation he deserves.
Credit to the Opposition
Absolutely not. Odds are the obscene amounts of money the murderous Saudi regime are able to funnel into the club will tell eventually, but it would be a welcome rare win for karmic justice if we saw the back of Newcastle and their horrible owners at the end of this season. Liverpool did their part tonight.
What Happens Next
Who the hell knows. Theoretically, Liverpool go to Tottenham on Sunday, but with three players missing after testing positive for Covid-19 and Spurs having had consecutive matches postponed for the same reason, it seems unlikely that game will go ahead. A break in all football action appears to be on the cards, and whether fans will be a part of it whenever the schedule is back on track is up in the air.
Whatever happens, the Reds are real good and we should make sure to enjoy them at every opportunity we’re afforded.