A grind. A slog. A hyped-up match that fell into a chippy, bogged-down midfield and couldn’t produce more than half chances. Then, a stoppage time goal, and everything changed. At least for Liverpool fans, as Sadio Mané was first to Daniel Sturridge’s shot off the post.
With the victory secured, Liverpool’s edge in possession and chance creation suddenly turned into a reason why the three points were well deserved rather than the distraction from letting two points slip away they would have been had the match ended in a draw.
“We have been working very hard together and just now we are in good form and we need to keep going like that,” was defender Dejan Lovren’s take following the hard-fought victory. "We missed something in the first half, but we had a good quality talk from the manager.
“He was asking us to play more direct football. If you want to win you need to be more offensive and ask for the ball. In the second half we showed our real face and deserved it. In these moments you need to be calm, and I think we showed our quality.“
It was Liverpool’s second shut out victory in as many games, and it helps to put their early December stumble behind them and to keep Chelsea just barely within reach at the top of the table. It also represents the kind of late heroics Liverpool sides used to be known for.
And if they’re to turn a strong first half into a genuine title challenge, they’re going to need more such results—the late ones, the unlikely ones, the ones that turn one point grinds into three point triumphs—to be in a position to challenge Chelsea should the leaders slip.
“There are a lot of games in front of us,” added Lovren. “But the games like this you need to win if you want to stay in the race.”