[Liverpool 3 – 1 Burnley].
Look up the definition of “impact sub” and surely you will find an entry added today for “Elliott, Harvey”. I always enjoy it when Harvey plays; not only is he a terrific footballer (especially when we remember he’s only 20), but his enthusiasm is downright catching. He loves being out there, trying things out, and in his own way, he creates almost as much chaos as does Darwin Nunez.
His reward? two assists in 45 minutes, in a game where Liverpool looked helpless for a decent chunk of the first half.
A pretty good day in the office.
Another impact sub today, even though he was in the opening lineup, was stickman Kelleher. Two huge saves in key moments kept the Reds’ from imploding, and apart from one slightly awkward situation that nevertheless triggered PTSD from last week’s game vs Arsenal, he didn’t put a foot – or hand – wrong the entire game. The Clarets are not exactly a top-class opposition, but they are no pushovers either, and with their season on the line, they came to play.
Still, they showed a bit of naivete for Jota’s opener, as poor Trafford got caught by his own player in the box and Jota’s impeccable poacher’s sense of place gave him an easy nod-in (the headed version of a tap-in, surely). I think it was Dara O’Shea who impeded Trafford, and if so, he certainly paid back whatever debt he owed his team with a magnificent header off a corner at the end of the half. Once he struck the ball, there was nothing anyone could have done about it, it was that sweet – especially considering it was his first-ever Premier League goal.
Perhaps having Vincent Kompany as manager rubbed off on him.
Halftime brought not just Harvey onboard, but also a key tactical change that screamed to be made. Pulling Macca a bit closer with Endo gave the team a much better outlet in midfield, and the Japanese international began to shine, pulling the strings of an instrument that suddenly felt in tune. For the next 35 minutes or so, Endo was involved in anything good that happened Kop-side. It wasn’t a surprise that Lucho snuck one in, nor that Darwin did, although it’s worth noting that the latter’s goal was a world class header, just like O’Shea’s. Darwin could have had a second, but it was too easy of an opportunity; someone needs to invent an “inverted xG” metric for Nunez to better align his conversions.
Notice that I haven’t named a man-of-the-match yet. That’s because my pick – another impact sub who opened today – is unlikely to match anyone else’s. To my mind, Jarrell Quansah was, yet again, almost shockingly excellent. For one thing, he has the defensive equivalent of Jota’s positioning skill, but what really stood out to me were his calm, mature approach to situations that would prove tricky for even much more senior centerbacks, especially since Burnley repeatedly tried to go through him. There was one moment that summed it up in the second half, when he faced an awkward lofted ball that looked very similar to the one that unscrambled Van Dijk last week; Quansah calmly headed it as high as he could to give the team a few more seconds to re-organize in transition. Simple and effective. His confidence in playing his way out of tricky situations befits a player with much more experience, and he got this close to being on the score sheet. What a performance from one who is sure to become a key defensive anchor for the Reds.
In the end, it was a professional performance from a team managing a very busy business end to a season that could still end with unbelievable glory. Liverpool still has the edge on City, because City has to come to Anfield. What a story it would be if Klopp leaves with another league trophy.
We can only hope.