LIVERPOOL qualify for the next round. They progress. Without progress.
Repeatedly Liverpool should put the football match to bed. Repeatedly they don’t do so. Many passages of play have some glorious touches but only Milner’s early penalty offers us a taste of glory.
Frankly, it has to improve. If the Liverpool manager decides to make the contest a game of tennis then he needs his lads to serve some aces.
Instead, there are endless rallies, each stroke ratcheting up the tension, never the release of the winner.
Klopp is well within his rights to encourage an open game. It is a valid way to play and Liverpool should have got themselves out of sight vindicating his decision.
As I used to say about his predecessor in the Liverpool job, he can’t kick the ball in the goal for them.
There was no single offender.
Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and especially Jordan Henderson really should score — the captain getting on his own back about the miss five minutes later. Which is fine as I am on his back now.
If he is doing all that third man running with the risks that ensue then he needs to look like a double figures midfielder across the course of the season. The time ticks on for when he adds these goals to his game. That time is now.
There was much to admire in Liverpool’s performance and much to worry about, too, especially in the context of the final.
Football matches are rarely definitive but Sunday should be. That should be the special, joyous nature of a final. It is itself. It leads to nothing more. Normally.
The final hung over the game. Coutinho goes down, what about the final? Has Lucas Leiva played himself into contention for the final? Daniel Sturridge gets the hook on 60 because of the final.
If you know that, then don’t the players?
And so in a sense, they may well reflect on a job done well rather than just a job done. The win is in the bag, Liverpool are in the hat.
But the only way Liverpool put a run of results together is to genuinely put a run of performances together. No matter the personnel or how settled the side, they don’t look like doing that.
To Sunday. Klopp’s Liverpool may well win. They may well lose. They may play well. They may play poorly. They will all be committed, that’s all we do know. They are a football team determined to offer no clues to their true identity.
Hence Sunday isn’t as definitive as finals usually are. It, and the two league games which follow it, are a diagnosis of these Reds. It’s time to take the mask off — time to be the football team they are.
It’s time to win, win well, keep winning. It’s time for progress.
Up the weirdo Reds.