There is a game I like to play as I am writing these columns, in which I open a new, empty document for each game before it starts, and fill in my predicted scoreline. I’m usually wrong, of course, but ever so often I get it right, and then it’s a bit of extra fun for me.
Today, perhaps surprisingly, was one of those moments.
Nothing against Leeds, of course; I like their team and would rather see them stay in the premier league, even if only because it would be a loss to not have Marcelo Bielsa around. Plus there is always Everton available to clinch that last relegation spot, which everybody must agree would be the correct outcome.
Enough about them. Let’s talk about Liverpool.
The Reds were humming today. The game could have easily notched the same scoreline in the first half; Fabinho should have scored, and Salah should have nabbed his hat trick, and the only reason Luis Diaz didn’t get a second for Liverpool was an unfortunate block – from Sadio Mane. There really wasn’t anything that Leeds could do. They started and played well for about ten minutes or so before running out of gas as Liverpool just shifted into the next gear and took them completely out of the game. From that point onwards, it was a matter not of if, but of how many.
Two penalties for Salah, and two assists, make it difficult not to name him the man of the match, but I have to say, the Giraffe must be a strong contender. So let’s talk about Matip’s goal, which has been months in the making. Liverpool has been working up the crowd for a while now for when this moment would inevitably arrive, and when it finally did, the joy was clear and abundant. There is not much the other teams can do about these runs he makes, which exploit and overload spaces left by man-to-man marking by a player who has no right to be where he is and to do what he does. This time it added a new element, a gorgeous double pass with Salah, which led to a finish that would make any striker proud.
What a fantastic weapon to add to the arsenal.
Back to the Egyptian. With all of these goal contributions, Salah is clearly aiming to win both the golden boot – and the golden, uhh, skillet. His greatest competition appears to come from Robbo and Trent, and the former is hell bent on crossing (pun certainly intended) Leighton Baines’ assist record for a fullback before Trent catches up to him in turn. It’s an interesting competition, that. With Mane’s two goals today, both of them emphatic finishes that suggest he may be back to form, Liverpool players now occupy the top three spots for both goals and assists for the season, which is downright remarkable.
There was another goal, the sixth, and it came from another player who had an outstanding match. Virgil Van Dijk is back – like, back back. That moment in the second half when he stopped a counter by simply… standing there… was so Virgil that it put an exclamation mark on his full recovery from that horrific injury. No one does this better than him. His reading of the game leads to these situations where it seems like he is a beacon in a storm, and balls just seek him out for comfort and safety. His finish on the last play of the game was similarly assured. Between him and Matip, Liverpool now has the best centerback partnership in the league.
That has got to be at least somewhat concerning for everybody else.
Thiago is on fire, Luis Diaz is exactly that good, the Terminator terminates with abandon, and we almost – almost – got another Origi goal. The first important trophy to play for is in four days.
Anyone want to bet against this team?