“The best two teams on merseyside are Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves”
When Bill Shankly coined this immortal phrase, he was being a little obnoxious, as was his wont. Everton also happened to be a good football team back then, something that cannot be said for the modern edition of the Toffees. Still, I could not help but be reminded of that prophetic announcement after seeing our youngsters, plus a couple of senior benchers, win the derby in the FA cup against Everton’s senior squad.
I feel for Carlo Ancelotti, but I suppose the challenge of trying to fix a team in such shambles must feel invigorating.
What these kids did today was astonishing. This was not a lucky result. Under the guidance of one Adam Lallana, who was a magnificent steward of the captain’s armband and a clear focal point of inspiration, the young Reds dominated properly throughout most of the game, pestering, hounding and generally harassing their opponents with the vigor of youth and the wisdom and organization of being a Klopp side. The early stages were a little difficult, and it took several brilliant and instinctive saves from Adrian to keep it level. But once the nervousness dissipated, Klopp’s babies simply took over. At some point towards the end the 5-minute possession stat flashed on the screen, showing Liverpool at 78 percent to Everton’s 22. If anything, it felt understated.
Neco Williams looks like the biggest threat to Trent that anyone could conceive. Yasser Larouci, who came in for a possibly injured (no risk taking was the obvious motto) Milner on the 8th minute, made some Robboesque blocks, tackles and runs. Chirivella was mature and cool-headed, certainly more so than Everton’s Schneiderlin, who is almost 10 years older and by far the more experienced player. Is Harvey Elliot really only 16?
And then there was the diamond in midfield.
Curtis Jones gave a performance that would earn him a regular spot in many teams’ starting eleven. He was everywhere, intelligently playing and passing his way out of Everton’s desperate attempts to do something, anything, to assert their experience. He facilitated transitions, destroyed them on the other side, and constantly made a general nuisance out of himself. And then came his goal. That was a wonder strike, reminding me of that Sturridge hit on Chelsea a couple of seasons ago, finding a tiny little corner of the target and dipping into it juuuuuuuust right. Pickford could not do a thing about it. It was absolutely magical, and well-deserved.
Even so, I’m going to give my man of the match to Joe Gomez. If anyone wanted an explanation to Liverpool’s recent sudden accumulation of clean sheets, there’s your answer. It is a little harder to see when he plays next to his regular partner in the premier league, the supreme emperor of lawnmowers Van Dijk, but today, next to a somewhat shellshocked Nat Phillips (who got much better after a frankly shocking opening 20 minutes), he did not put a foot wrong the entire game, and is chiefly responsible (together with last minute wonder-signing Adrian) for this clean sheet too.
If only we can keep him from getting injured again.
Takumi Minamino needs time to adjust, but he showed sparks of his brilliance even so, and it was lovely to see Ox coming on the field healthy – we’ll need him in the coming weeks. Origi did Origi the Origi way. Did I forget anybody?
And so the city of Liverpool’s second best team marches on in yet another competition, and the best team got themselves a day off. Master Klopp could not hide his joy, grinning for the last 10 minutes from the sidelines like, well, like a kid who just ate toffees for dinner. It occurs to me that if Liverpool wins everything this season, as it just might, it would have won a sextuple, including the international treble, european double, domestic double, and probably a couple other things I’m forgetting. And the scary thing is – for other teams – Liverpool is only getting started.
You can do this in Football Manager, but in real life?