Do you believe in omens? Because if you do, this game had plenty of them. The first goal this season where one of Liverpool’s main scoring pair (Salah) assisted to the other (Mane). The first game since I can’t even remember in which Liverpool managed to keep a clean sheet at Anfield (and also, incidentally, the sixth non-loss league game in a row, which is now definitely a run). But the biggest one of all is also, perhaps, the most important.
The quality of the player is not in question. His ability on the ball sometimes appears limitless, his cleverness often exceeding that of his teammates’ comprehension with some of those incisive passes. His tackles are so… terrible… that it’s hard to identify another player in the entire league who is better at producing silly yellow cards. To his credit, he is fearless and as long as he stays away from the box, those cards usually serve to focus his game. He didn’t get one today. What he did get was his first appearance on the score sheet, and it was a long one coming.
Thiago finally got one.
And it was a beauty of a finish, showing all of those qualities in that moment. The way he looked at the wrong corner while sorting out his body and his legs for shooting at another. The accuracy of the shot itself, leaving no chance for even a random deflection by a raised knee or an outstretched finger. It makes it all the more confounding that it had taken him this long, but it does seem to underline Klopp’s contention that we will be seeing a better Thiago next season.
I, for one, can’t wait.
Speaking of great finishes, that Salah-Mane combo for the first one was also a work of art. The ball from Fabinho to Salah was in itself gorgeous, but we’ve gotten so used recently to Salah then running into a wall that I instantly sat up a couple of inches when he instead shaped his body for a cross. And my word, what a cross it was. Perfect as they come, with pinpoint placement, essentially taking both the defender and the keeper out of the play. Yet even with all of that, it took an absolutely stunning feat of acrobatics from Sadio Mane to climb up and head it in while not at the same time bundling the white shirt underneath him. It was reminiscent of another breathtakingly acrobatic header, from one Gini Wijnaldum. to tie that famous return leg against Barca a couple of years back on the road to a sixth Champions League trophy.
It was magnificent, and it was crucial. This team, for all its recent stumbles, have yet to lose a league game at Anfield under Klopp when they lead at half-time. Still, at this stage a draw would not be enough, and so Thiago’s slick finish was desperately needed to calm the nerves and avoid another last-minute disaster.
Which leads us to the one player who, above all, deserves to be called the man-of-the-match. We’ve said this plenty of times before, so it isn’t a big surprise: without Alisson, Liverpool would have lost this game. Then again, without him, this team would not have had that sixth, nor break a 30-year premier league drought. He makes the odd careless mistake here and there, but even when he made one today, he immediately proceeded to notch another mark in the “whoa!” column saving the resulting return shot. Still, I’d like call out Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters who, were they to win this game, would have earned the honorific instead.
And so the Reds keep the hope of champions league soccer next season alive. On paper, it seems that their toughest hurdle will come at Old Trafford. It would have suited Liverpool for Manchester City to have won today and secured the title, so as perhaps to eliminate any remaining title hopes with their old rival. That did not happen. You’ll have to do it the hard way, boys. And don’t worry, because one thing will never change.
You’ll never walk alone.