This was not a great game, at least from a tactical and technical perspective. Both teams were sloppy, for one thing. But it was highly entertaining to watch, with plenty of opportunities at both ends, and it could well have ended with a lot more goals, coming in from both directions. The unjustifiably low final scoreline ultimately did service to both sides. For Leeds, it didn’t really matter.
For Liverpool, sadly, it represented a significant missed opportunity to get back into the top four.
Perhaps more notable was the odd combination of unusual factors for the Reds. For example, in what universe does Thiago not get a yellow card for all his misplaced tackles, and if not for those, then for persistent fouling? I’ve become so used to seeing him end up with one that it felt a little surreal to see him make all his usual “what, me?” challenges and somehow avoid Andy Taylor’s little black book.
Then there is the fact that Liverpool scored – before half time. When has that happened last in the league? As the half ended with the Reds on top, I could have sworn they were more likely than not to extend their lead in the second half, but this game challenged several recent patterns, this particular one being no exception. Leeds deserved their equalizer, and it would have been no surprise at all had they won it in the end by their established favorite recent scoreline of two to one.
Another one, clearly, was a goal scored by none other than the recently AWOL Sadio Mane, ending a depressing scoreless run that has extended for way too many weeks. That initial pass by Jota to Trent was absolute class, and the resulting one-touch assist from the fullback was genius, perfectly weighted and placed for Mane to roll it into an empty net from near the edge of the box. It would have been difficult to miss. But look at the replay enough times, and you’ll notice that Mane almost managed it anyway, his body shape all wrong for what was otherwise a very simple finish. We can only hope that the goal will help quiet that voice that is hurting his confidence.
You could also point to the apparent return of lady luck to the Reds’ dugout. On several occasions, dangerous situations that could have easily ended up in the back of Alisson’s net didn’t, seemingly breaking a sort of evil spell that has bewitched the team since the turn of the year. Speaking of which, both keepers gave a solid game today, but they also each made at least one horrible mistake that didn’t cost their side. In fact, even with good appearances from a few in the squad – Trent, Kabak and Milner – luck probably played a bigger role in only two goals being scored, and so luck gets my nod for man-of-the-match.
With all that, for my money, there was one thing that truly deserves mention above all else. Without question the most unsettling aspect of the game is Alisson’s new appearance. I dearly miss the beard. I could handle the Grobbelaar moustache. But this clean-shaven version… who is he? Is it real? Is it really Alisson Becker?
What… is… happening?