Pick up the phone, dial Camp Nou, and ask the receptionist to get you in touch with Ter Stegen. Once he gets on the phone, ask him about the first goal from that substitute Wijnaldum back in May. You may well inquire, saying “it wasn’t a particularly threatening ball, Mr. Stegen, now was it? Kinda rolling and bouncing but not with much power”, maybe following up with “so what happened, huh Ter? What happened?”. Once he stops sobbing, you might add “it’s OK, it’s just a dream”.
Except it wasn’t, and we all know what happened after.
The reason I bring up this little fantastical story is because, effectively, it was the very same goal from the very same player today that is allowing Liverpool to continue an impressive win-streak and maintain a perfect season opening record through game seven. The strike wasn’t particularly special, but it went a-rollin’ and a-bouncin’ and somehow right through Dean Henderson’s otherwise immensely capable hands (as we saw later when he faced Mo Salah in a situation that would garner 100-1 odds against him saving it).
It is becoming a signature of sorts for Gini Wijnaldum, isn’t it? And isn’t it fascinating that his name is, well, Gini? Because these goals, both utterly critical in timing and impact, are nothing short of a wild wish. As in, “Gini, Genie, grant me this wish, make this ball go right through the keeper so it can swish”. Or something like that. I never said I was good at rhyming. But I’m good at seeing magic when it happens, and whatever the Red Genie, err Gini, is doing to these balls when they release from his boot is, clearly, to instantly cover them with fairy dust, the slickest surface known to fey-kind.
The rest of the game was what you would expect from an away match, in heavy rain and strong winds, at Bramall Lane. It’s not quite Turf Moor, but it’s close, and just like the Chelsea game last week, there were many trapdoors that were threatening to suddenly open and swallow the Reds whole. Instead, they get to scamper home with three more precious points to maintain the pressure on Pep and everyone else.
Weather played a big factor in Mane’s two huge misses, as it did for the Sheffield United rued chances. The Salah miss is little more difficult to forgive, except that it didn’t matter for the points; I am a little sad that we broke our “2 goals per game” streak, but happy that Adrian got himself another clean sheet in such a tricky game.
And what can I say about Origi? He comes on, and he has a great impact. At half time I was suggesting to my colleagues that we should uninvert the wingers, to exploit some obvious potential mismatches. Klopp went one better, and switched to a 4-2-4 (or 4-2-3-1 if you like), moving Mane right, Salah center, and Origi left, thereby also uninverting the wingers. This change was absolutely essential to Liverpool grinding out this win, and so I’d like to award my man of the match to Klopp, but I can’t. I would give it to Gini, because of his goal and incredible amount of hard work on top of all that, but on further consideration, it should go to Van Dijk. He was there in many crucial moments, made no mistakes, and was calm and comfortable in his role in a tough game in rough conditions. So Van Dijk it is.
Still, it’s always nice to have a genie on your side.