The Goals That Didn’t Matter

If I’m being totally honest, it really didn’t take me long to get over the Champions League final loss. I know rival fans will be disappointed to hear that, but it genuinely didn’t. I think the way the match panned out made it easier to move on. There was no sense of us being robbed, even though I genuinely do think that Sergio Ramos intended to injure Mohamed Salah and knew what he was doing when he landed an elbow in Loris Karius’s face. Even so, the goalkeeper essentially threw two into his own net and we conceded an absolute worldie. There’s not much you can do to plan for that, nor can you allow it to weigh you down for too long afterwards. Obviously Liverpool’s moves in the transfer market have helped us to alleviate any sadness that might have seeped in in the aftermath of the result. Whilst the disappointment for the majority of us isn’t as bad as we all would’ve feared, there’s still a sense of what might have been.

When Sadio Mané scored the equaliser, I genuinely believed that we’d have enough to go on and win it. There’s no point doing ‘What Ifs’ now, but had we not conceded the Gareth Bale goal I do wonder what might have been. Might we have turned the screw a little bit more concertedly? It’s possible. James Milner’s corners certainly didn’t seem as if they were going to get any better, but Mané was having the game of his life and could’ve done another bit of magic. In the end it didn’t matter, with the goalkeeper settling matters virtually on his own when he allowed Bale’s second strike to sail past him. Neither was it a particularly spectacular goal, all things considered. Yet the more I’ve thought about it, the more it’s got me wondering about other goals that have been scored that ended up being entirely pointless. Ultimately I decided if I wrote about goals alone it would be too long an argument, so instead I’ve chosen to write about the really brilliant ones that I could remember, so here they are in no particular order.

Sebastian Coates v QPR (2012)

I was at Loftus road in 2012 when Sebastian Coates scored one of the best goals I’ve ever seen in the flesh. It came from a corner, whipped into the box and cleared out as far as Steward Downing. He attempted a cross-cum-shot that was cleared by Bobby Zamora but it was a lofted clearance that was probably a bit too low, so Coates did what any second-rate central defender who hadn’t been playing much would do: he leapt into the air and smashed home an overhead kick that was truly spectacular. I was pretty much in line with it and I can tell you – if the net hadn’t been there it might well have knocked someone’s head off. There was some power behind it, which is remarkably impressive when you think about it.

The whole reason the goal made it into this piece, of course, is that it ultimately proved entirely useless. It shouldn’t have. It was a goal that deserved to win any match, though in actuality it opened the scoring. Dirk Kuyt got a second and it felt as though the three points were ours when the scoreline ticketed around to the seventy-fifty minute. In a move that we’ve all grown far more used to in recent times than we should’ve done, Liverpool wouldn’t end up victorious. Instead, Shaun Derry headed Queens Park Rangers to 2-1 and then our former player Djibril Cisse scored the equaliser. José Enrique then failed to defend properly (q’uelle surprise) and Jamie Mackie scored the winner. A brilliant goal gone to waste.

Daniel Sturridge v Sevilla (2016)

Speaking of European finals that we lost 3-1, has there been a better goal in a competition’s last match that ended up being completely meaningless than Daniel Strurridge’s against Sevilla in Basel back in 2016? The forward hadn’t had the best season for us prior to our Europa League run, struggling for fitness and consistency and essentially being sidelined by Jürgen Klopp until he’d trained regularly enough to prove he had what it takes to play in the German’s team. Even so, he’s a man whose undoubted quality will shine through when he’s given a chance to prove his worth and that’s exactly what happened at St. Jakob-Park. Having received the ball from Philippe Coutinho on the lefthand side of the area after thirty-four minutes, the striker looked up and saw three Sevilla players in front of him. For most players, the natural next move would have been to recycle the ball and go again.

Not so the former Chelsea man, who simply pulled his left peg back and released a shot with the outside of his boot that curled past the goalkeeper. It was a thing of real beauty and demonstrated just how good he could be on his day. In another ‘What If?’ moment, it’s impossible not to wonder what might have been for Liverpool over the past few seasons if Daniel Sturridge had remained fit for the duration of his time at Anfield. I also wonder sometimes if the forward would’ve been remembered more fondly by some if he’d been sold in the summer of 2016. That being his final goal would’ve been fitting, really. Ultimately, of course, it proved to be fruitless. Sevilla, like Real, were well versed in how to deal with a final and three second-half goals put the game to bed. Alberto Moreno played the part that was later taken up by Loris Karius and heartbreak followed, but we’ll always have that Sturridge goal.

Benteke v Manchester United (2015)

I’m not deliberately picking out amazing overhead kicks, but if the Coates one was good then the Christian Benteke one was unbelievable. The former Aston Villa man didn’t have the best of Liverpool careers, but this was a goal for the ages. Yes it ultimately proved to be pointless, but in a compilation of top goals scored at Old Trafford, this will be very close to the top of the list. The ball was with Jordon Ibe on the righthand side of the Manchester United penalty area and he worked himself some space before sending it in to the middle of the box, only for a United defender to head it clear to the edge of the box. It wasn’t the best clearance, but I doubt he’ll have thought that the Belgian striker was about to do what he was about to do; after all, he hadn’t produced such an excellent piece of play since signing for £32.5 million that summer.It shot into the top corner, giving David de Gea absolutely no chance.

The ball was at the perfect height for Beteke to throw his legs over his head in a scissor-kick, with his right foot connecting to the ball brilliantly. Martin Tyler’s commentary was surprisingly muted, especially considering the virtual orgasm he had a few minutes later when Anthony Martial scored a relatively run-of-the-mill goal, but that’s a conversation for conspiracy theorists. The reality is that it was always likely to be a consolation goal, given that it made the scoreline 2-1 with six minutes left. Martial’s goal two minutes later sealed the deal and it also drove another nail in the coffin of Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman was living on borrowed time for most after Liverpool’s 6-1 loss away to Stoke the previous season. This meek defeat was enough to get FSG’s minds swirling and he had just three league games left. He was replaced by Jürgen Klopp, though, so maybe it was a good thing that the goal ended up meaning nothing?

Dejan Lovren v Borussia Dortmund (2016)

This goal ended up being meaningless in a different way to the others on this list. They were all meaningless in the immediate, this one proved to be worthless in the long-term. Neither was it as spectacular a goal as the overhead kicks of Benteke and Coates or as classy as Sturridge’s left-footed finish. Instead it was all about the let off, the moment that the Anfield crowd erupted. Having worked hard for a 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion, we knew that a win against them at Anfield would send us into the semi-finals of the Europa League. Things didn’t start well, with Klopp’s former team taking the lead after just five minutes thanks to Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got himself on the scoresheet four minutes later and Anfield was stunned into virtual silence. They continued to slice us open but didn’t manage to get the goal that probably would’ve killed us off.

The one thing you don’t want to give Liverpool in a European game is hope, yet that’s what Dortmund did three minutes into the second-half when Emre Can played in Divock Origi and the Belgian prodded home. The German’s restored their lead less than ten minutes later, but the seed of our ability to progress had been planted and Anfield came alive. Rival supporters have mocked the power of the Liverpool crowd despite the evidence there to prove it, with what happened next surely being the prime example. A right-footed thunderous shot from Philippe Coutinho made it 3-2 on the night, then Mamadou Sakho got the equaliser from a corner, but it was his defensive partner that would truly seal the night. The ball was played out to James Miner on the right who whipped in a brilliant cross and Dejan Lovren rose like a salmon to head it home.

In that moment, the Croatian defender showed that the power of Anfield still exists, that the conversion of the ground to an all-seater venue didn’t destroy the atmosphere completely. It was a precursor to the atmosphere that would leave Manchester City’s defence shaken and stirred in both the league and Europe two seasons later. It was also vindication for a player who has too often and too easily been the target of abuse from people who like to abandon any sense of nuance when discussing football. As with the stunning display against the Cityzens this season, it would ultimately prove to be useless in terms of us winning the competition. Yet if we go on and win a trophy next season then there’s no doubt in my mind that the Europa League run and final disappointment, as with the same thing in the Champions League this season, will have given the players the experience to do it.

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