Leicester concedes from a corner is surely by now one of the tired tropes of the season. So is Liverpool converting from one. These two emerging cliches combined beautifully today to open the scoring, and it only remained for Diogo Jota to pounce on a rebound off a powerful Van Dijk header and an incredible, instinctive save from Schmeichel, in order to put one in the back of the net. The Portuguese is proving himself, over and over again, as a wily box beast – and even if that isn’t a term in football, it should be. He’s just there, at the right moment, at the right time, with perfect positioning, quick thinking, and rapid reactions. As a result, the ball often seems to simply want to go to him, as if it knows that it will be taken good care of.
Jota’s second goal was in that sense much of the same, and considering the instinctive heroics of the Foxes’ man between the sticks, it took a perfect, instinctive strike to slip it past him. So jot two more for Jota, and a likely team-of-the-week ratings upgrade on his beloved Fifa by next week. He will have earned it.
Speaking of Schmeichel, he was pretty much the sole reason Leicester didn’t ship several more goals. The TV commentators were arguing amongst themselves as to whether Jota or Schmeichel should earn the man-of-the-match award, and they both made rather a strong case for it. But in my mind, there was another player who did remarkably well, and was the primary reason that Leicester looked so miserable, clueless and lost on the few occasions that they did get the ball. Then Joel Matip got that sublime assist, and for the life of me, I can’t think of anyone better than the Giraffe who deserves this mostly meaningless designation.
Besides the win itself, there was so much good news today that it is worth a cheer in itself. Let me count the ways: Thiago is back, and looking as good as he was when he picked up his last knock. If he can stay fit through the rest of the season, he will be a significant positive force for the Reds. Had that audacious overhead kick made its way in, I daresay the entire stadium at Anfield would have risen two feet in the air. Then we have Luis Diaz. Dear me, I knew he was good, but everyone needs some time to adjust, right? Some of the combinations he played with Robbo were downright gorgeous, even as they clearly were still learning how to play with each other. He also came extremely close to scoring, and in front of the Kop no less. Had it not been for another incredible instinctive reaction from Schmeichel, I daresay Anfield would have gone up in the air three feet more. What a start for the Colombian. And let’s not forget Elliott, who came on for a somewhat lackluster Jones, and electrified the pitch with his tenacity and intent. What a young player we have on our hands in him. Oh, and this stylish performance happened without Mane and (mostly) Salah, even as the Egyptian still managed to induce more migraines to Leicester in thirty minutes by himself than most teams can in ninety.
But perhaps best of all was seeing Liverpool pressing all over the field in that way that makes the Reds almost impossible to handle. If the difference between scoring two goals and five is whether the opposition keeper catches a stellar day or merely an excellent one, then the team is in good shape indeed.
It’s good to be back.
Personally, I can’t wait for Sunday.