[Liverpool 3 – 2 West Ham]
Let’s start by stating the obvious: West Ham killed it today. They played extremely well, considering the chasm of quality between them and Liverpool, and two goals in one game against the rampaging Reds – at Anfield no less! – is a terrific effort. The hammers hammered. For a little while, it seemed like Liverpool might finally succumb.
But this edition of Liverpool just doesn’t do that.
What this team does do is simply rise to the level of pressure introduced in any particular game, do just enough to overcome it, and then usually sits back and sees the game out. Occasionally they might do more, but that’s almost by happenstance; the fourth goal today, canceled by VAR due to a marginal offside, was one of those. It’s rare that we get a truly inspired thrashing like the 5-2 vs. Everton, which also happens to be the last team to score two at Anfield.
This level of efficiency may be the most striking reflection of Klopp’s management genius. It creates a strange effect; everyone keeps expecting Liverpool to stumble, but somehow they just don’t. They play in first gear when appropriate, yet have no trouble going pedal to the metal when necessary. Unrelated to this game, I am certain that Atletico will find that out when they come to visit on the back leg of the current champions’ league tie; their 1-0 “half-time” advantage from Madrid is acutely and symptomatically a Liverpool sort of result.
The game was a fun one to watch, with plenty of action, not atypical of the business end of the season with smaller teams fighting for survival. Gini’s opener was classic Gini, with the ball going through Fabianski’s hand; Salah’s later equalizer had a touch of Gini on it as well, as the ball nutmegged the keeper in slightly embarrassing fashion. Ter Stegen and Dean Henderson, to name a couple, would empathize. In between we had two excellent hits from the boys in white, giving them that false hope, but ultimately simply serving to allow Alexander-Arnold to continue to increase his already impressive tally in the assisting department, setting Mane up for an easy clincher. Didn’t he break his own record of assists by a defender in one season today as well? Need to look that up.
Not that he forgot his defensive duties. In a game where Keita looked simply lost until he was replaced, the front end seemed a bit anemic, and the back line allowed in waaaaaaaayyyyyy more goals than it normally does, Trent played exceedingly well on both ends of the pitch, and earns a man of the match award from yours truly. One must marvel at the qualities of this youngster, that is, after first remembering that he is, indeed, still a footballing pup.
In the process Liverpool matched the records for both the overall longest winning streak and the longest winning streak at home, and all it takes to break both is beating the Hornets on Saturday. The title being a foregone conclusion, this season is now all about the records. How many can Liverpool work through? Can they win a golden trophy like Arsenal’s Invincibles? Can they win a quintuple? heck, they may even win two championships in one season, if the EPL decides to strip City of its apparently illicitly acquired title of the 2013-14 season, which would set a truly unique record that will never be broken.
In the kind of mood Liverpool’s in, there really is no telling.