With the team’s extremely poor form recently, it seems to merit an exclamation-marked headline to note that, finally, Liverpool obtained the result one would expect them to at the end of a premier league game. Not to take anything away from the Blades, who played a good game overall, but were – and are – outclassed by their illustrious opponents.
The same is true, after all, for many other teams Liverpool has faced and lost to recently.
Snapping out of a losing streak like the one the Reds are stuck in can be very difficult, and the team’s injury problems are somehow still worsening, its players missing twice as many games due to injury thus far this season as the next team on the list (being Leicester). A grieving Alisson was understandably absent today, and with his understudy Kelleher joining the medbay crew, it fell to an unexpected hero of last season, Adrian, to field a rare appearance between the sticks, and for Jakub Orzynski and Liam Hughes to be named on the bench. Adrian ended up playing the role of ol’ dependable, doing well when called upon, but in truth, the game was pretty much all Liverpool, all the way.
And incidentally, even though the game did end with a priceless three points, it also served as a reminder of the struggles that the mighty Reds are facing at present. The first goal was a bit lucky, with Trent just barely managing to keep it in as he crossed it, but was still emphatically struck in by Curtis Jones, who is notably not one of the front three. The second goal was purely due to a nasty deflection, and while for a while it was listed for Firmino, in the end, it was correctly re-awarded as an own goal. Bobby simply isn’t hitting the target, or when he is it’s in such a fashion that he allows the opposing keeper to be a hero, as he did for Ramsdale early in the first half. Salah missed a sitter of an opportunity towards the end that you would normally expect him to hit with his eyes closed, but he also had another excellent opportunity earlier where he, too, made a hero out of Ramsdale. I won’t even mention Mane, who is presenting nowhere near his usual threat.
It ultimately came down to the difference in quality between the two sides making the difference, but it could easily have ended with another frustrating draw or even loss. Still, you need games like this to escape the rut, and Liverpool thankfully got themselves one. Chelsea is up next, and it’s going to be a different matter altogether, although the merseysiders do seem to fancy the Blues as opponents in recent times. A win against them at Anfield will certainly change the season around… again.
As for a man-of-match, my choice is the unassuming yet rapidly emerging as the brightest surprise of the season for Liverpool – Nat Phillips. He doesn’t play a lot but when he is called upon, he always seems to deliver a solid, confident performance where he does all the things you’d want a centerback to do, and none of the nonsense in which more… ambitious… peers might engage. He is the one, quite literally, big (6’3″) reason the Blades were frustrated even during their good spells, and his fearlessness and determination are a joy to behold, and surely mark him as an honorary Liverpudian.
And in a season full of surprises, it may be fitting to end this column with this: can Liverpool mount a serious challenge to West Ham for the fourth Champions League spot?
Only time will tell.