IT was only Norwich, writes SIMON ALKIN. They’ve got basically the worst defence in league — worse than ours, worse than Aston Villa’s. But Saturday afternoon’s chaotic, exhilarating victory felt significant. Maybe not Steven Gerrard-ripping-his-shirt-off-against-Fulham significant, but perhaps an altogether smaller flag planted in the ground nonetheless.
Jürgen Klopp’s squad has been portrayed in recent times as either lacking character — rolling over to take an easy beating — or maybe even having an abundance of it: trying too hard, agonising mentally over every mistake or issue.
The past two games have been an illustration of how possibly both are correct and both are wrong.
One very relieving thing that Saturday did show us was that, unlike last season, a heart-breaking home defeat to Manchester United doesn’t necessarily mean these players will collectively drop heads and coast through the rest of the league season.
There was fight in this performance, through bleak moments and right to the dying seconds.
Fight at 3-1 down after that infuriating foul by Alberto Moreno.
Fight when Sebastien Bassong swings his boot at it and scores (probably) his only ever non-headed goal for 4-4.
Even a bit of fight in the riotous, spectacle-smashing celebrations of the winner.
We still can’t defend a set piece to save our lives. We’re still painfully lacking in top-end quality (though Roberto Firmino is starting to look the part), but you get the feeling that no matter how unlikely a top-four place gets, these boys won’t be allowed — and won’t allow themselves — to simply slip and slide towards faceless mid-table obscurity.
At full time against Manchester United, the rest of the league season felt like a real worry.
Inevitably the mind cast back to the final two months of the previous campaign, when a defeat in the same fixture was followed by an insipid eight points from the final eight games.
The depressing thing was United themselves only chalked up 11 points over the same stretch — meaning that if Liverpool had just kept picking up points at the same rate since the late December, the Reds still could have given them something to think about for fourth place.
The same applies now. Another Dele Alli worldie might have helped restore Tottenham’s eight-point advantage over Liverpool, but there remains much to play for — and not just in the cups.
Spurs still have to come to Anfield and are perhaps due some injuries, having mostly avoided them all season. United continue to look a shambles even after their fortuitous win against us. West Ham have had a good season but are easily surmountable and while Leicester are probably out of our reach, they are likely (surely?) to have a big dip in form at some point.
Maybe all of that is just wishful thinking. But the point is every week is fine margins with the potential for twists and turns. And there are nearly four months of this left.
While many say we should just focus on the cups, there are too many potential opportunities for catching up to simply stop caring about the league.
For better or worse, too much character or too little, Liverpool reassuringly played the second half against Norwich like a team that realises this.
There might be a mountain to climb, but the players need to keep fighting like they did on Saturday if there’s to be any chance.
And if they do that week after exhausting, injury-ravaged week, then who knows what might happen.
Fight for every set piece, fight for every loose ball, fight with each other if you have to.
Give out, but don’t give up.