Liverpool are still in it. Somehow. They’re still in the Champions League despite three road losses and 97 nervy, painful minutes of football on Tuesday evening as they saw out the only one-goal lead that would allow them to advance.
They’re still in it despite numerous missed chances. They’re still in it despite Arkadiusz Milik being gifted a chance to level the score and send Liverpool home in stoppage time. And they deserve to still be in it. Despite all of that.
On Tuesday night, against Napoli, when it mattered most they were the better side. They pressed and harried and battered Napoli. The game, in the end, felt entirely one sided even if the final scoreline was terrifyingly close.
The three points were fully deserved, even if it took a miraculous moment of composure from goalkeeper Alisson, making himself as big as the goal and hurrying Milik when the Napoli striker was given his side’s chance to advance.
As of December 12th, four months into the 2018-19 season, Liverpool are first in the Premier League and on into the knockout rounds of the Champions League. It is far from a given that they will be similarly placed in another four.
Right now, though, they deserve to be there. They’ve earned it. Even if they haven’t always been perfect—though being unbeaten and with just six goals conceded in the league, they’re certainly close to it in that competition.
And even in their occasional struggles and mis-steps there’s reason for hope; reason to believe this Liverpool side can play better than we’ve mostly seen. They’re top of the table. They’re on to the knockouts. And can play better.
For Liverpool, for the club’s fans, that makes Tuesday’s achievement—those nervy, painful 97 minutes of football—something to celebrate. This is a side that can be better. This is a side now positioned to do something special.
Whether or not they achieve anything, in the end, will determine whether this season gets recorded as a cathartic success. For now, though, that they can—that they could—is what matters most; what makes this a good moment.
Liverpool haven’t been perfect, but they will play in the Round of 16 and they head into the next round of league games with the presumed title favourites chasing them. For however long that lasts, try to enjoy it.