I missed the game at Old Trafford, sadly, due to work commitments and the awkward timing of the match. When I did finally get to see it a couple of days later, it certainly was a terrific exhibition. If you had asked me in advance which of the two games I would prefer to be forced to miss – that one, or today’s against an already relegated West Brom – my answer would not have been in question. And you can bet your life it would not have been the one against the Red Devils.
Well, let me tell you: how fortunate am I that it ended up this way.
Not to discount the frustrating, frankly exhausting 95 minutes leading to a moment that will forever be etched into the history of this club; a club that, mind you, has a fair number of famous moments in its history already. Yet it is guaranteed that Alisson’s stupendous, outrageous, insane last second effort will end up being remembered decades into the future. Replayed not just as a great moment for Liverpool, but one of the greatest moments in the history of the Premier League itself. Especially if, as is growing increasingly likely, it proves to be crucial in keeping the team in its rightful place in European football next year.
Liverpool can’t really afford to miss out on the Champions League.
And it is that charming Brazilian between the posts that, once again, is the one to keep the hope alive. Just like he has done repeatedly since making the move to Merseyside.
“I don’t know how to celebrate” was Alisson’s part-shocked, part-bemused response to a reporter’s question about how he felt right after the goal. You could see it in the replay. He just stood there and let it all wash over him, not just team-mates, or the enormity of the moment, or the culminating weariness of this difficult season, but also the events of the past few months in his personal life. The tears came to his face unbidden, as they came to mine in watching him and, I am sure, to the faces of many other fans around the world. The tragic death of his father in that terrible accident has weighed heavily on him, with the pandemic disrupting his ability to mourn with his family in Brazil. But surely, he must have thought that his father was watching over him, guiding him, as that ball came down on his head and he guided it perfectly towards the far corner, achieving a feat so extraordinary that no other Liverpool keeper has ever matched it before him in almost 130 years of the club’s history.
What I can do is tell you how I celebrated, which primarily involved jumping up and down screaming “holy s***!” repeatedly for about five minutes, unable to believe or process what I had just seen. Part of me still can’t, and I have been a fan of Liverpool and all of its remarkable moments going back to the 1970s.
Does the rest of the game even matter? It does, of course, in the sense that it set up the enormity of that desperate, last-ditch moment. But other than that, it feels almost pointless and immaterial to discuss any of it. So yes, the Baggies played their hearts out (admirably, one must admit) even though they had nothing to play for, went one up, and held on magnificently for the life of them against an otherwise dominant yet bruised and battered Liverpool. With the notable exception of one Mo Salah, perhaps the hero of the season simply for keeping up his output while everyone else’s performance was sinking, the team still seems unable to score easy chances. Mane’s fluff that could have tied the game was atrocious. Firmino got unlucky again. And so on and on it went, a story that has become painfully familiar to the fans this year.
Similarly, do I really need to tell you who the man-of-the-match is? Didn’t think so. For my money, his header is also instantly the obvious goal of the season.
Will it be enough? It has been my consistent opinion, expressed in these columns, that should Liverpool win out starting with that Old Trafford game, they would clinch fourth. Two more to go.
Come on you Reds!