Liverpool 1 – 0 Manchester City
I was absolutely prepared for more heartache today. My hope for the game was that we wouldn’t lose by more than two goals and give a respectable performance. To draw would have seemed immense. So let me start by giving a massive round of virtual standing ovations and a huge, all-my-heart-and-soul THANK YOU to the boys in red.
Because if you look at everything that happened to this point this season, this outcome is borderline ridiculous.
Haaland – Wholand? – still cannot score against us, and without him scoring, City is quite literally lost. There is some danger in building a team so heavily on a single foundation, especially when his career thus far points to injury proneness, but he was perfectly fit today. But the Reds didn’t care. This very team, Liverpool that has leaked a goal first in almost every game thus far, that has had massive problems at the back, provided a downright perfect defensive display.
You could easily pick any of the back four for man-of-the-match, or even the guy behind them, but I have a different choice, which I’ll get to in a minute. Van Dijk looked like, well, Van Dijk. Robbo has clearly benefited from his break. Gomez was brilliant, and what Milner did on the right side, at his age, against this opponent, was hall-of-fame worthy. In Hebrew we have a phrase that loosely translates to “the man today had no god”, meaning in this context that Millie showed up with such fire and passion, nothing could stop him.
From Stopping Them
Then we must look at our thus far not-so-intense midfield. Welcome back, Fabinho! What a show, Thiago! And what Bobby did today in the “false Bobby” role put a capital D in Defensive Forward. No one in the world does this job better than him. His positioning was perfect every minute he was on the pitch, and I lost count of the number of times you could see City’s players taking one extra hesitant moment to rethink a pass because Bobby suddenly appeared in the passing lane for the better pass. In a game of very fine margins – that Ederson saves on Salah that should have been a corner but wasn’t being a prime example – every small hesitation and resulting suboptimal pass selection means the negation of several top goal chances.
Not that Jota, Harvey, or Salah gave City any quarter. I also lost count of how many times it was Jota or Elliott who made the crucial last intervention around the Liverpool box. Yet that did not stop them from constantly harassing the City fullbacks at the other end. Jota’s departure on a stretcher is truly unfortunate, and while he missed a couple of great chances, the man was clearly getting back in form. Let’s hope it was just precautionary since it was the very end of the game. As for Salah… well, on the one hand, he could have easily assisted one for Jota, but at the same time, in a game like this, what matters is scoring the one goal that counts. Which Salah did with aplomb. And again, it was an Alisson assist, which you just don’t see that often in football. Salah was bright the whole way through. If there is one thing I must point out is that for some reason, it seems like Anthony Taylor declared open season on the Egyptian.
The precipitating event, an absolutely clear foul of many that somehow escaped Taylor’s notice, led to the ejection from the game of my actual man-of-the-match, Jurgen Klopp. Do you know something? The man was right on every level to explode at the refs, and that kind of passion fires up your players at the right moment to keep hold of the game. I love him for it, and I love him even more for the red card he got. Because in the end, all it did was underline a torrid display of refereeing. Anthony Taylor is the one that deserved the red card, as did both his linesmen. Let me put it this way: if it wasn’t for VAR, which finally did something right, City would have been unfairly one up as well because, well, it was open season on Fabinho too.
That Tells You Something
So even with shambolic refereeing, even with a fully fit City squad coming on with fire and momentum, even with our own squad so full of injuries that we had to depend on Milner and Gomez to stop Haaland, and even with all the issues with consistency the team has had so far this season, these boys really did us proud. It feels like the moment when seasons turn around, doesn’t it?
I just hope my dogs will forgive me. I scared them so badly when Salah put it in the net that they were barking for several minutes afterward.