“Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?” asks the lord in that famous verse (enough so that this life-long atheist recalled it), and I could not help but have it pop to my mind as the final whistle ended. I’m not entirely certain that had the Toffees actually managed to win it with that final free kick, the injustice could have been any greater. I suppose it would have made the sense of unfairness more pronounced, more…
Let us start with the fifth minute. What Jordan Pickford did to Virgil Van Dijk could easily have ended the career of many players. A brutal, full-force, scissoring lunge aimed around Virgil’s right knee left the massive dutchman on the ground, an incredibly rare sight. That he was able to walk away afterwards is testament, not to the power or directness or obviously intentional nature of the tackle, but simply to Van Dijk’s stature as a giant amongst men. Offside or not – and let us be clear, this was one of those armpit offsides – this foul should have sent Pickford packing, not only for this game, but a few more.
This sort of thing was enraging enough when all we had were referees on the field. To have VAR and still allow Pickford to continue playing is mind-boggling. Let’s also be clear about something else: Everton came in to this game to break legs. They almost took Robbo out as well, and Thiago more than once. Richarlison’s red card in the eighty-eighth minute was well-earned, but in the general context of the game, seemed almost serene. It was extremely disappointing to see the Toffees play this way, but it worked for them in the end.
And let’s talk about that ending.
Sadio Mane was not offside for Hendo’s goal. Period. There is no possible way that anyone, looking at the moment of the pass and with all the lines you can draw on the screen, can make a convincing argument that he was. Liverpool’s third goal should have stood, and at least restored some parity to this outrageous tie. Instead, VAR again decided to get involved against the Reds, and one has to wonder if there is some reason that these calls were constantly being made in the backroom the way they were.
VAR deserves a red card.
Does it even matter after this sort of outing to talk about anything else? Yes, Mane’s opening goal was a beautiful example of flowing team play, and were it not for Pickford’s shameful outburst gaining exactly what it was intended to gain, that is, taking a critical player out of the game, I will stipulate that the Reds would have been three or four up by half time. They were confident, surging, and dominant in that way that makes football fans everywhere want to watch football games. Keane’s goal from the corner, in the very location where Van Dijk would have normally been, added insult to injury. Salah’s strike was an absolute peach, and the way he had to adjust his body awkwardly in a split second to make it happen made it all the more so. And yes, Everton scored a decent second goal, but that’s all I am going to say about that, because the way their players handled themselves today was disgraceful the entire time and none of them deserve any accolades.
Thiago, though, deserves a few words. The man’s ability to find passes that I, for one, can’t even see when I’m watching things comfortably at home with a bird’s eye view of things is downright intense. He also constantly got involved to create problems in the midfield for Everton, playing a perfect accompaniment to Henderson who seems to be slowly getting back to his old self, if not quite there yet. Thiago also had, for me, the strike of the game. It was a powerful volley that would have easily blown a hole through the net had it made it all the way through. Luckily for Everton, their last of five or six players that were in the way happened to stand in the right spot to deflect it away, and you could perceive the force of the shot by just how far the ball got bounced back, almost all the way to the middle of the pitch.
My man of the match will go to Robbo, who put in another remarkable shift on the left side, but it’s really only because I have to pick one player; Mane and Salah both did well, as did the aforementioned Spaniard. Klopp promised the team would bounce back from the trouncing at Villa Park, and so they did. My suggestion, therefore, is this: ignore the final scoreline. It was a manufactured result by the people in the VAR room, and had nothing to do with the actual game played in front of us. Performances of this quality are enough to win a championship.