ONE of my favourite Liverpool stories — and it really does come up over and over again — is the number of people whose dad said that Ian Rush wouldn’t make it at Liverpool.
No-one is saying that about Ben Woodburn.
Nor though, and the Liverpool manager is right to say it, should they be saying he will definitely score 10% as many goals for Liverpool as Ian Rush. That he will be one 10th as good a player as Ian Rush. Because Ian Rush scored loads of goals and was frankly amazing at football.
But it’s exciting, always exciting, to have a young attacking prospect to urge on. It was, when he cracked his finish past Marco Silvestri in the Leeds United net, a gorgeous moment, a moment we are all either still dreaming of or lamenting that dream has had to die. It was a moment not when a young talent announces itself — that’s almost always imposed in retrospect — but just when youthful reverie became flesh. Someone else having what you had always wanted. Imagine it, the purity of it. What was pleasing was the calmness of the strike was completely opposed to the intensity of the celebration — everything there balanced and in order.
Elsewhere in the game, Liverpool were occasionally in danger of not getting the result while simultaneously getting a similar outcome as the weekend just gone. Liverpool opened the scoring through Divock Origi with 15 to go on the clock, got a second and never looked like conceding once they were ahead. Liverpool are in danger of finding themselves with a regulation 2-0 in their back pocket.
There was a lot to like about the evening:
– Beating Leeds. This is very important. This wasn’t some crowd from the Championship whose results you will keep an eye on and hope they do OK because they did OK at Anfield. This was Leeds United. An awful set of lads. Let’s be clear about this with a thought experiment: Through some unknown set of circumstances you are obliged to take a night out with either 10 random match-going Manchester United supporters or 10 random match-going Leeds United supporters. It is a toss of the coin. Heads Manchester United, tails Leeds. Imagine it. If while that coin is spinning you aren’t urging it with every fibre of your being to fall with heads winning, your decision making is all over the show.
– Trent Alexander-Arnold. He’s good, isn’t he? Looks the part and should be considered if not for Middlesbrough then quite possibly for Stoke at home or Sunderland away when it starts to speed up. The ball for the opener is a belter and he is very assured. There will always be a reason not to risk him in a league game but he has made quite the point today and yet again confirmed the Liverpool manager and his team know what they are doing when they started to work with him to play full-back (a process which started with the current academy staff before Jürgen Klopp arrived) and then chose not to strengthen there before a ball was kicked this season.
– Fifteen minutes of Ovie Ejaria in the first half. He looked irrepressible.
– Georginio Wijnaldum hitting the post. It’ll be knocked over in the excitement but that was neat link up play and the sort of space filling which has been absent recently.
– Sending Leeds back to Yorkshire having had a look at our new stand and with nothing to show for it. Hope they don’t win again this season.
– Lucas Leiva makes a lovely little run just before the opener which creates a teeny bit of doubt in Leeds’s players minds, which in turn allows that little bit more space for Alexander-Arnold to put the ball in.
There was a fair bit not to like:
– Shots from distance. Just pack it in, lads. Especially you, Albie. Don’t think I’m not watching.
– We felt a senior player down in centre mid, when we came under the cosh. Which, when we were playing two of them, was a bit out of order. They do well when we are ahead, but there were two patches of Leeds pressure in the second half and we don’t really manage to do much other than allow them to punch themselves out.
– And simultaneously we felt an attacker light until Woodburn came on. If the front two of the front three is Daniel Sturridge and Origi then we perhaps don’t have that problem. Each can play as the conventional front man and occupy people and hold the ball up. And then take turns dropping in and wide. Sadio Mane seemed a little lost in that and needed us to be that bit more orthodox and symmetrical.
– Some people joined in with “Stand Up If You Hate Man U”. It wasn’t great. It used to happen a lot in the ’90s and would always be attempted to be drowned out. The likes of Blackburn would come and give it an airing. See above, though — this was Leeds United. A terrible set of lads. Don’t give them a thing.
– Origi getting kicked all over the place with very little protection.
Things to like and things to not like. But there were also things to love, encapsulated in firstly two lads who can still play for the Under 18s walking off the pitch together, one with an assist and another with a goal. One having captained the other. That’s a massive part of what football both is and also should be.
Secondly there’s this moment when Woodburn’s scored and Lucas jogs over to him and you know now that Lucas would rather have not played, and Christ you completely understand why, but he is beaming, absolutely bloody beaming; there in that moment is also a massive part of what football both is and also should be. It has to be said and dwelled upon what an impressive young man Lucas Leiva is. He’s not even 30 yet.
This thing of ours. Always new favourite stories. New favourite things. New ways to fall in love. Teenage dreams, so hard to beat.
Hull please, if we can. Until then Bournemouth etc. Let’s go, Reds.