The Reds are in a funk, there is no denying it. Breaking this sort of spell is hard, and revolves around the trickiest and most challenging aspect of football – the psychology of the humans that are playing it. From that perspective, this particular game could not have come at a better time. Playing at Old Trafford against their biggest rivals is always sure to get the juices flowing, which can serve to nudge players away from their confidence issues that threaten to set in during bad streaks. And for the tie to be in the FA Cup, a secondary competition where a loss is certainly less painful than, say, if it were a title decider, is of further help in this department. It can relieve a bit of pressure.
And in this, we have a bit of good news.
Sure, Liverpool lost. But other than that, let’s start with the headliner: the team scored again, and they did so twice. Mr. Dependable Mo Salah was the finisher both times, which is exactly what you would expect and hope for as part of this process. He could have ended with a hat-trick, too, but that’s less crucial. Even more important is the fact that both goals were the result of plays that the Reds usually thrive on. The first resulted from a pressure-induced turnover that led to a quickly decided and exquisitely executed combination between the two players that combine the best for Liverpool by far, stats-wise; the pass from Firmino to connect with Salah’s brilliantly-timed run was a joy to behold, and Salah’s finish on his weaker foot could not have been more perfect.
Salah’s second, his cheeky nutmegging finish aside, was even better, as the play involved both quick thinking and the cleverness the team has been missing in the last few games, as well as the patience needed to give Salah that final shot on goal. Much credit goes to Milner for having the presence of mind to enable it. It was classic Liverpool. It’s also important to note that were it not for the lack of experience of our young centerback, Rhys Williams, Liverpool may well have emerged the winners, and the players must know it too. For professionals like these, that’s like a breath of fresh air.
The mojo, in other words, is desperately trying to come back.
There is still a clear lack of consistency, but if the last few games have all gone in one direction – the wrong one – this time many steps were taken up the other way. Momentum takes a while to get built, and it has to start somewhere. The loss itself notwithstanding, if they can build on this game, the Reds have plenty of time and room to reheat their anvils, reforge their swords, and mount anew a serious challenge for the important titles – the premier league, and ol’ big ears.
Oh, right, there was another team in this game, too, and they won, so I suppose they deserve a mention. In particular, it was Marcus Rashford who was the primary reason they did win. So man-of-the-match for the lad, whom I really do like, even though from my perspective he wears the wrong shade of red.
There, that’s done and dusted. Back to our regular programming, and the man we all “special” love to hate on Thursday. May we continue to build momentum on his back.