WHAT a day. What a glorious day. A day that’s left husks of Liverpool fans wearily smiling in work today after celebrating the unlikely to the max ever since. Well that’s the scene in our office anyway.
As anyone who listened to Friday’s show on CityTalk can attest, I didn’t see it coming. A glorious defeat? A hard-fought draw? A win based on a solitary moment of magic, a stroke of luck or a fortunate refereeing decision in our favour? I’d have taken any of those scenarios before a ball was kicked in anger. And at least we’d get to give Raheem Sterling a bit of stick (did that anyway).
It was only Jürgen Klopp’s eighth game in charge; turning up and attempting to boss it at The Etihad seemed like a step too far. Particularly when lining up with an 11 minus a recognised striker.
Doubting not believing? Maybe. But there’s conditioning from what’s come before, on and off the pitch. Seven years without a league win in these parts hardly helped matters, nor did a glance at their squad list.
On the tram to the ground, we chatted to Manchester City fans. They were confident, they expected a win, they didn’t fancy our chances. We had a bit of a laugh about it. Not much needle going with City, which is a bit weird, really. But one for another day.
In the ground, the unoriginal, unfunny, and frankly boring “Ste Gerrard/Demba Ba” song was trotted out. It’s not needle that. It’s just shite.
And then there was that. Minutes in, there were grins in the away end. You could see where it was going.
If you’re like me, you’ve watched the game again. You’ve read loads of reports. You’ve consumed all the media there is to consume. Because the Reds have just stuck two fingers up to everyone. And it’s great.
But let’s do it all again, husks or not. It’s not going to win any awards this piece of writing, but…
One of the most frustrating things about watching Liverpool go to “the big clubs” down the years has been watching sides in red play without confidence, almost waving the white flag before a ball is kicked.
The performance at Manchester United a mere 70 days was a case in point. Meek, subservient — worried about them. Lying down and having bellies tickled.
This then, in the same city, and so soon into the Klopp revolution, was as warming as a brandy on a cold day. And served up within seconds.
Martin Skrtel straight in, winning headers, throwing tackles in. Philippe Coutinho, Emre Can, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana moving the ball fast and early, justifying Jürgen Klopp’s decision to leave the more muscular and less mobile Christian Benteke on the bench.
The offside flag saved City after some champagne footie early on but the warning wasn’t heeded. Coutinho’s challenge on a dallying Sagna came and you know the rest. City never really recovered. And apart from a couple of spells when they raised their game, and the Reds dug in, the result never looked in doubt. If anything, it should have been more convincing.
As well as the confidence that brimmed from the Reds, what is also lifting spirits a couple of days on is that it was far from perfect. After a 4-1 win at City that reads a bit mad. But think about it again.
Lallana’s back heel out of play, Nathaniel Clyne’s delayed pass that saw Lallana stray offside, Firmino’s two one-on-ones with Joe Hart, and the one he put just past the post, and the one he hit at Hart’s shins. Another needless offside between Firmino and Coutinho, Benteke’s chance which Hart saved, the preventable play that led to their goal…
This Liverpool side can improve. It can play better. It can score more goals, it can be tighter at the back. It has Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Mamadou Sakho to return, among others (shout out to big Dejan — all about the boots, mate. Go no-nonsense, in every respect). It has a revitalised Jordon Ibe, who was bright in his second-half cameo.
It has three Brazilians that were the absolute business at The Etihad (Firmino’s ball juggling act in the corner has been underrated so far…) and it has Emre Can who can do things like *that* backheel.
Perhaps most importantly, it has Jürgen Klopp. We know he can talk the talk by now, but very quickly his Liverpool are walking the walk — the players believe, they are buying into it and for all the hugs and smiles, there is a clear ruthless streak there. He’s a winner. “He is our friend but he is not our best friend. That is the best way to put it, I think,” said Benteke. “He is there for us if we need him. We have to do what he wants us to do.”
What Klopp wants them to do now is win at Anfield. We need to know is if they still have a Southampton or a Crystal Palace in their locker or if that particular mental bridge was crossed in Manchester. For now though, before Thursday and Bordeaux and Swansea and Sunday, we can watch it all again. Skrtel’s rocket, the celebration, Lucas’s tactical yellow (shame about the ban), “Show Me The Way To Go Home…” on 30 minutes, Firmino’s pass, Lallana’s dummy, Milner’s work rate…
Right now, who knows where it will take us. But it feels like the start of something good and that feeling beats the cloud that hung over the club in recent times. Games will no doubt be lost but it seems like they’ll be lost while trying to win them — Saturday was gung-ho entertainment at times, with little thought to shutting up shop.
Here’s to an end to blue Mondays. We should enjoy it. I know I did.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo