Not only did Liverpool thrash Leeds United 6-0 at Anfield on Wednesday, coming within 3 points of Manchester City and overtaking them on goal differential. No, the best part about that match was defender Joël Matip scoring from one of his marauding runs when you think he’s going to topple over on ice.
Going on an adventure finally paid off.
“I went forward and Mo gave to me just a brilliant pass,” Matip said to the club website following the match.
“I didn’t have to stop at all, I just could continue my run and it was the best pass. I didn’t have to think a lot because the ball directly came in front of me and I am happy that after a few tries, the ball finally goes in!”
Matip, of course, isn’t a stranger to scoring, but it’s usually a header from a set piece. This season feels like he has gotten particularly brave in moving the ball forward and yes, the practice has finally shown its worth as Matip scored the second goal of the evening at half an hour in.
“We know Leeds is always a hard challenge with the way they play and the quality they have, but we did it good over the 90 minutes and yeah, it was a wonderful night I would say,” the defender continued.
“They have a really special kind of [way of] playing but it works for them and with the quality they have they are a threat for every team. It’s quite hard to get adjusted but if you use it right, you can also have success with it.”
The Reds are no strangers to playing from the back, although Matip’s skills with carrying the ball that far forward are not usually called upon. Anytime he has the ball at his feet for more than a few steps, it doesn’t always look that natural - but Matip insists it’s something he does work on in training.
“I try to!” Matip added.
“Because sometimes I think it suits me and I think it’s also not too easy for the opposing team because they have to adjust, at one point somebody has to come to me and then another player is free. If it helps the team I think it’s not too bad.”
Of course, any player getting better at something they’re not instinctive at can be a boon for the squad, and Matip was probably the most unexpected goal scorer at Anfield today. The improved confidence and skills have certainly helped him in maintaining Liverpool’s stellar season. But is he enjoying it?
“In a personal way it is good that I had no injuries so far,” Matip said.
“I hope it will stay like this and yeah, to play with this team, everybody is lifting each other up and it’s just great to play with the quality of these teammates. To be there on the pitch, to play for Liverpool, it’s just great.
“It started there [the preseason]. It was the base, we did it with the fitness team, with the medical team. They really take care [of us] but sometimes you have no influence on it and even before that we worked hard. But I am happy that I am fit now and hopefully it stays like this.”
Now all eyes on Sunday, where the Matip and the Redmen face Chelsea in the Carabao Cup Final (shortly after the Women face Arsenal at Prenton Park).
“Everybody is looking forward to this game. Chelsea, great team, Wembley, great stadium, and a great chance to win a trophy.”
Well said, Joël Baggins.