What is there to say anymore?
How many times this season – this awful season – have Liverpool failed to convert an imperial buttload of opportunities, only to get nicked in the end? How many points have been lost this way?
For a team that, it seems, just won the Champions League and Premier League back-to-back in mesmerizing fashion, this fall from grace is breathtaking, even epic. And yet here we are.
There was some hope that Diogo Jota would help cure the finishing disease that has inflicted the side since he got himself on the injury list, but instead, he seems to have picked it up himself. Combined with a tendency to give the ball away in uncomfortable situations made him, today, more a liability than asset. Salah still scores routinely, but in the interest of fairness, the Salah of last year, let alone the year before, would have been scoring a lot more. At least he scores. Mane, for his part, seems to need the kind of opportunities, like against Leeds, that require almost no effort, and even then he is so unsure of himself it’s painful to watch. In a game like this, his lack of confidence is telling. As for Bobby…
Oh, right. Then again, Firmino still otherwise plays his usual game, making a nuisance out of himself with his clever pressing and roguishness. But it seems that now his lack of finishing has moved down the ladder into the final pass as well, and that hurts the engine even more. The odd tug of styles between him and the slower, more calculated Thiago (who had a good game today) keeps playing out on the pitch, thus far showing more harm than benefit. Hopefully they can sort it out in the summer.
Still, none of that justifies the sort of mental collapse that has led to the Magpies stealing not once, but twice in the space of the final two minutes. That the first didn’t count was pure luck, with VAR playing a central role in enforcing a somewhat nonsensical rule, this time in the Reds’ favor. But why were Newcastle even presented with a second? This cannot be justified anymore by being tired – the team is playing once a week. And the Superleague nonsense can’t be it either, because this stuff has been around for a while now.
Like so many times recently, the game should have been won emphatically in the first half. A 4-0 scoreline wouldn’t have done Liverpool any favors. Once it didn’t materialize, it felt like it became just a matter of time. It also made a hero out of Newcastle keeper Dubravka, who was the primary beneficiary of the merseysiders’ lack of confidence in front of goal, and thus gains a suspicious sort of man-of-the-match award from me. He did well, yes, but he shouldn’t have been given the chance.
Five more games to go. Liverpool may still pull it out of the fire for themselves with respect to a top-four finish, but at this point, it seems like a win at Old Trafford next weekend will be necessary. The way things look right now, a thumping by Ole’s squad is more likely.
Unlike our Reds, the Red Devils certainly don’t seem to be cowering.