Sitting down to watch the game today, I found myself dealing with a level of pent-up anxiety that I haven’t felt since the UCL finals. Everything seems to finally be coming together for the Reds to take it over the line in the Premier League this season. Yet even against a clearly vulnerable Manchester City team, living in their own bad moment, I couldn’t help but be vividly reminded of the decades of being oh-so-close but never quite making it.
And the way this game started, it seemed like the sword of Democles that has been hanging over Liverpool’s neck since the beginning of this season was finally destined to fall. Injuries or not, Manchester City are a scary opponent, and they came out of the gate with plenty of determination. They also got extremely close to scoring first, even before Trent Alexander-Arnold handballed – or maybe, in deference to the VAR notion of not overruling the refs except under extreme duress, armpitballed? – in the box. Still, Mr. Oliver didn’t think the fullback had much of a choice, waved the game on, and roughly 30 seconds later, the Terminator terminated.
I was still trying to look up a replay of Trent’s error on my phone so I only caught the ball in flight, and the oddest thought stuck me; it was “I didn’t know Ox was playing”. Because while Fabinho has been a revelation since he’s gotten used to playing in Kloppworld, this was a whole new level of areyoueffingkiddingme-ism from him. There was one replay later from a camera right behind the goalpost, and it doesn’t matter how many times I look, it’s difficult to fathom how that sucker went on. It wasn’t just the power and the placement; it was also the timing. It doesn’t even seem like there was a target for him to hit, exactly, except one decided to show up conveniently in the right moment while the ball was already moving towards goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain does these things, because it’s a thing he does. But Fabinho? doesn’t he have better things to do, like be in three places at once?
Then we went 2 up in less than 15 minutes, on a classic Liverpool counter that should go into our ever-growing fullback pantheon (and yes, Salah’s timing and header was fantastic too). The (red) meat grinder was on, Aguerro kept being a day late and a dollar short, and suddenly it seemed like Liverpool was City and City was Arsenal. After half time, at 3 up (courtesy of a Henderson moment of pure genius), for a moment the thought came up that we could turn around the whole goal difference gap from City in this one game, which would have been nice, but Liverpool of 2019-20 doesn’t crush.
It just wins.
City will feel hard done by that nothandball, and I can understand the sentiment. In the end, though, there were two teams out there today, one of which looked impossible to break down, and they weren’t wearing blue. When I think back through the game, it was the Liverpool midfield that did City in. Jordan Henderson – and later on, Milner – were a constant thorn in City’s side. Gini Wijnaldum was downright incredible, and would have won my man of the match, except for the smiling assassin, whose wonderstrike proved that while he is expert with the machete, he is clearly no stranger to the sniper rifle.
So… does Fabinho have a chant yet?
13 out of 15 points with the others in the big-six is, one must admit, a pretty good way to start a season. That Liverpool also happen to be 21-for-21 with the rest is downright difficult to comprehend. It’s an insane pace.
Let’s keep it.