A Performance to be Incredibly Proud Of

My kingdom for a season in which it doesn’t feel as though we’re constantly talking about refereeing decisions. More importantly, perhaps, my kingdom for not having to talk about refereeing decisions altering the destination of the title. Every team gets decisions that go both for and against them. It would be folly not to mention the fact that we got some good fortune when Paul Tierney didn’t give Forest the drop ball last weekend, for example, even if that did come about two and a half minutes and plenty of possession changes before our winner. Yet massive refereeing calls in two potential title-deciders have gone against us in the Gabriel Martinelli handball against Arsenal at Anfield and the Jeremy Doku foul on Alexis Mac Allister yesterday. Neither of them were debatable. Both of those decisions was infinitely more ‘monumental’ than the drop ball. Only one of them had the media and the rest of the footballing world up in arms and it was the one that benefitted Liverpool Football Club. ‘Liverpool=bad’ is a very real thing, my friends.

The Arsenal one was obviously problematic, but there was still a long way to go before the end of the match so who knows how that one would’ve played out. Against 115 Charges FC, though, it would’ve been the last kick of the game had Michael Oliver, who was looking straight at it, given the penalty. That he didn’t is perhaps fair enough, with the official thinking that Doku won the ball. That Stuart Atwell watched a replay and didn’t choose to send Oliver to the screen to see for himself that Doku didn’t get a touch is scandalous. Perhaps the pair of them had been in the United Arab Emirates in the week, doing another refereeing stint on behalf of Manchester City’s owners, and were just a little tired? It is difficult to think of another reason why neither professional referee realised just how egregious an error had been made in not awarding Liverpool a penalty kick. Oliver was once considered the best referee in the country, but those days are long gone. Nowadays he bottles too many big decisions for that to be a serious consideration, with Liverpool on the receiving end.

A Hugely Impressive Performance

Thinking about the game in midweek, I felt as though Liverpool had a few too many injuries to be able to seriously take on Manchester City. When I saw the team sheet, I have to confess that that thought grew even louder, with the belief being that it was going to be one game too many for our injury ravaged squad to cope with. How many times does Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool side need to perform at the highest level before my ingrained pessimism will remain locked away in the recesses of my brain? That being said, even if I had maintained a degree more optimism, I’m not sure even then I would’ve felt that the Reds would be so dominant against one of the best teams in the world; albeit only having that title thanks to their financial doping. For the first 20 minutes or so, City were incredible. They showed exactly how good they are, passing the ball through our ranks almost at will and leaving us chasing shadows. From the moment that we grew into the game, though, we were virtually untouchable, with City being pushed further and further back.

Whilst Pep Guardiola might be the best coach of elite players in the world when there are no rules and restrictions put in place on him, Jürgen Klopp is just the best manager in the world. It is a disgrace that his time at Anfield has coincided with what we all know has been going on at the Etihad, because it means that he’ll leave the club at the end of the season having not won as much silverware as he should’ve. What he will leave with, though, is an immense sense of pride. Pride at what those players have achieved in games like the one that took place yesterday. They pinned one of the best teams on the planet back and had them clinging to a draw with their fingers nails when the vast majority of people believed that they’d get swept aside. Harvey Elliott was meant to be too lightweight for Liverpool’s midfield. Wataru Endō was too old and didn’t cost enough money. Most people couldn’t even pronounce Dominik Szoboszlai’s name, let alone know what he played like. All three of them, to say nothing of Jarell Quansah, stood up and were counted.

The Title is Still in Our Grasp

There is still a long way to go before the end of the season. I am not under-estimating how difficult games against a determined Manchester United and Everton at their own grounds will be. I am not taking for granted matches against the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers will be. Add in the fatigue that will set in if we go deep in both the Europa League and the FA Cup and you can see exactly how many ways there are that Liverpool might not be able to win the league. Had we lost yesterday, I would be fairly convinced that the quadruple would not be on the cards. Had we won, I’d be suggesting that Jürgen should field me and you in the midfield for any non-Premier League games between now and the end of the season. A draw means that it will be difficult. If we can win all of our matches, which certainly won’t be easy, but if we can then I think we will end up as champions. Obviously the same could be said of both Arsenal and City and either of them could do it, but we’ve got the easiest run-in, statistically.

Football isn’t decided by stats, of course. If it was, we’d have been given the three points. Instead, it is won by what happens on the pitch and officials have almost as big a part to play in the outcome of games as players do. Had they done their jobs we would almost certainly be one point better off from the Tottenham Hotspur game and have four more points from City and Arsenal, whilst both of those teams would have a point less. In a Premier League title race that is going to be one of the tightest ever, that could end up being decisive. What happens next is likely to decide the destination of the silverware. Can Liverpool harness the anger that comes from such an abysmal bit of refereeing, or will they believe that the fates are conspiring against them? Will the injured players come back and be able to hit the ground running, or will the fact that they’ve now been out for so long mean that they take too much time to get up to the rhythm of matches and actually cause us more harm than good? Whatever happens, this Liverpool team is in it for the long-run.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *