The biggest problem Mohamed Salah faced today was not that he only got to play for about thirty minutes to try for that twentieth goal of a third season in a row. It wasn’t even his rotten luck on his first touch, which hit the post a couple of inches too far to the right. He was such a live wire during his time on the pitch that a goal from him would have seemed obvious. But he did indeed face a problem, in that all of his utterly brilliant passes lacked a critical element on the receiving end: Mohamed Salah.
Were Salah passing to Salah, then Salah would have ended with a rapid-fire hat-trick.
On replay, Newcastle’s opener was somewhat comical, and it came so quickly that I actually missed it live while en-route to my home office to watch the game with a fresh cup of coffee in hand. It really started with Gini handing the ball on a free-kick right to the always alert and ever so wily Jonjo Shelvey, a former Red and one of my favorite characters in the league. He shares a certain shithousing quality with the much-beloved (by Liverpool fans) Andy Robertson, while similarly serving an impeccable role as a powerful engine for his team. Jonjo didn’t even bother to say thank you, immediately hoisting it forward to Dwight Gayle, who took advantage of Neco Williams’ inexperience to put one across Alisson. Go back and take a look at Mason-Mount’s disallowed goal for Chelsea a few days earlier and you will observe how Trent handled a similar situation by reading the pass and simply stepping back at the right moment to make it an offside. Neco instead instinctively reacted to try and stop the run, ultimately allowing the goal to stand. A good learning opportunity for the youngster to learn from his, err, youngster senior.
It really is hard to fathom just how young Alexander-Arnold really is.
Not that anyone needs it, but the last thirty minutes of the game illustrated for the umpteenth time just how remarkable the Reds’ front three are. Somehow, and to some degree a bit undeservedly, Liverpool managed to go 2-1 up before that happened. Virgil’s peach of a header off Ox’s smooth cross came almost out of nowhere, and the execution was – indeed, had to be – pinpoint perfect. And then we came to Origi’s moment. There is something about Origi that drives me personally a little mad. He has an incredible ability to change games, to pull off the unexpected, to be there when it matters. And then for the rest of the time, he does almost worse than disappear – he appears to gum up the works. His career seems destined to be one of glorious moments, and every time Klopp hands him a start, it reminds me of why he is the perfect bencher, just not a starter. Some of the credit to his goal needs to be given to Minamino, who slotted in at the exactly perfect moment to hide the impending strike from the ever reliable Dubravka, and then ducked at the very last instant to let the ball through. Highly intelligent play from the Japanese international, who also got as close as he ever has in the first half to nab one for himself, with only a tremendous fingertip save from the Magpies keeper denying it to him.
Mane’s third, in itself a superb effort, felt almost anticlimactic. Once the trio came on, a goal was constantly in the air, regardless of the actual scoreline. One amusing aspect of the change they brought on was that, in effectively establishing total dominance over their opponents, they released Van Dijk, my man of the match, to play right at the edge of the opposition box for long stretches of time.
In the end, it was a game that mattered little to either team. In winning it, Liverpool broke a club record for points in a season, which is pretty incredible considering they did the same thing last season, too. If they can manage it again next season… well, that would truly be something to behold.
In the meantime, we bid adieu to this one, in the dying days of July. A season in which Liverpool finally broke a thirty-year curse, only to not be able to share the celebrations with its fans. A season in which it managed to become – and still is – champion of England, Europe, and the world all at once. The incredible, terrible, inspiring, depressing, sensational, horrific pandemic season that will surely become one of the most fondly remembered by Liverpool fans deep in the future.
And so I bid you adieu as well for now. See ya in what, seven weeks?