With their highest-scoring performance in 2021, Liverpool fire their way back into the top four conversation in the best way possible, beating their arch rivals at their own ground for the first time in Jürgen Klopp’s tenure. Football is great and we’ve always said that.
Below, we take a look at some winners and losers from this delightful night of bonkers soccering.
Trent: He may not have put the armband on until Georginio Wijnaldum was substituted in the 75th minute, but this was a captainly performance from Trent Alexander-Arnold. The 22-year old was absolutely everywhere on the night, producing four shots and five key passes, including an assist, while pitching in with a tackle and a pair of interceptions at the other end, largely keeping Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba quiet.
He’s had some ups and downs this season, like most players during the pandemic, but in recent months, the 176-game veteran has been putting in the sorts of performances that saw him hailed by mane as the best right-back on the planet in consecutive seasons. That sort of form could prove enough to tip Liverpool’s fortune’s in the quest for Champions League football, and should see the Scouser feature for England at the Euros this summer.
Sim Senhor: Having been in one of the all-time finishing slumps for going on two years now — prior to tonight’s game, he had scored 15 goals from 25 expected since the start of last season — Roberto Firmino has apparently decided to start making up the difference at just the right time.
Popping up with a true poacher’s brace — a sneaky back-post header and a slick finish off a rebound — Bobby Dazzler was the decisive factor tonight, and if he can continue his resurgence through the end of the season, things may yet end up falling Liverpool’s way.
The Top Four Race: With Chelsea falling to Arsenal in most hilarious fashion yesterday, the top four race — which for so long seemed like an improbable long shot for the Reds — is now wide open. Should Liverpool win out in their remaining three games — away to relegated West Bromwich and safe but 17th Burnley, before hosting Crystal Palace on the final day of the season — they will finish fourth, assuming Leicester don’t lose to Chelsea and then beat Tottenham by three goals or more (and maybe even then, depending on the particulars of all the other results).
Given the combination of injuries and misfortune that have befallen the Reds this year — they are bottom of both the VAR overturns and defensive errors leading to goals tables — alongside the spectacular dry spell their frontline has gone on since Christmas, it is just short of miraculous that they now find themselves within striking distance of the Champions League.
Having put themselves in that position, it would be a good time for last season’s mentality monsters to rear their heads again as they head into the final three matches.
Covidball: In the covid era, football has been dreadful. Looking past the particular suffering Liverpool fans have endured this year, teams across the continent have — as a natural consequence of their players being increasingly exhausted — broken away from the counter-pressing trend of the last decade, playing dour, sluggish, defensive football, typified by the Champions League final being contested between clean sheet connoisseurs Chelsea and the dullest Manchester City team this side of 2008.
As such, it was — if one could get past the frayed nerves — enjoyable to watch a match that, while not exactly good, was at least uptempo and immensely entertaining. Featuring 37 shots, six goals, at least one own goal (Robbo gets a touch on the Rashford one, so we’ll see what the Dubious Goals Panel says), a penalty overturned by VAR, goal-line clearances, last ditch tackles, back-heel goals and Nat Phillips dribbling in the opposition box, this was about as fun a game as 2020-21 has produced.
Would we have said the same if the Reds lost? We’ll thankfully never know.
What Happens Next
Ten days from now, the 2020-21 Premier League season will be over, and Liverpool will either have qualified for next year’s Champions League or they won’t have. That is the long and short of it, and to get to the good result the Reds will now have to win another three straight, starting with a trip to Sam Allardyce’s West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
The Baggies have been the worst defensive side in the league this year, and have not moved from 19th place since November. But they did previously manage a draw at Anfield. And Big Sam is always in the mood to ruin shit for the teams of which he’s most jealous. So expect a tight and rough affair.