ALL wins are equal, but some wins are more equal than others.
The nominal value of a League victory never changes. The same amount of points were awarded to Liverpool last night as they were to, say, the Sunderland game. Three. No more, no less. You don’t get bonus points and you don’t lose any for getting away with a streaky win. You get three.
Yet there are wins and there are wins.
I loved everything about that Sunderland game. For a side used to getting battered week in, week out, the Mackems defended well and frustrated the hell out of us. Their keeper may be the best we’ve seen at Anfield.
That happens at times, but the best sides usually find a way to beat the most stubborn opposition. They’re not flummoxed when a weaker team decides to sit in and close ranks, but there are times when even the mighty walk off with a point because, sometimes, overall dominance just isn’t enough.
That happens and it’s happened to the Reds on numerous occasions over the years. West Ham and Fulham in 2008-09 spring to mind and arguably Manchester United a few months ago, though they at least had a shot or two.
That game with David Moyes’s side last month was great because not only did Divock Origi finally undo them, but James Milner joined in and added insult to “oh, for fuck’s sake, Sunderland”. We were given three points for it. Same as Monday night.
But Goodison was so much more.
I type these words with seven fingers rather than eight. Feel free to add your own genetics gag in there, but the reason the ring finger on my left hand isn’t playing is solely due to Sadio Mane getting ahead of Ashley Williams when it mattered. Cheers, mate.
Let me explain.
No-one knows exactly what they do when a 94th-minute winner goes in. Not really. I’ve a dim recollection of jumping so high that my knees were level with my shoulders and my voice screeched to such a degree that I disturbed the sleep of dogs two or three miles from the pub.
A few seconds later, we were asked by the landlord to leave as “this is a Blue pub”. I could have kissed him. Might have done for all I know. I was a bit emotional.
But my main memory was the sharp pain in my finger, the knuckle of which had connected with the elbow of my equally air bound mate, Dale, as we leapt about in a room which was suspiciously quiet. Fucking kills now.
I didn’t do that when Divvy scored against Sunderland.
As I say — all wins are equal, but some are more equal than others.
Obviously, these are different highs. This one was at Goodison. It was a derby. It was (sort of) the last minute. Everton had played well. They would be frustrated. They would hate us even more now. Koeman was bound to take it badly. There would be people who think it’s alright to sing “Always the victim” in our city of all cities who would be volleying cats all over the place. And it’s Christmas. All of those things were framed into a single second to be replayed for months to come.
And, for some of us, it came with the glorious intelligence that a rapidly swelling finger will be cured by more alcohol, thus making the next three hours medicinal rather than booze greed.
But, rivalry aside, it’s something more: It’s a statement win.
Another statement in a half season of statements. Sunderland wasn’t a statement. Everton was, and it was endorsed with a stamp heavy enough to be delivered by a fully fit Hercules with a decent run up.
The match itself was reminiscent of two matches played 16 years apart. In recent times it bore the hallmarks of the Swansea game. In South Wales, the Swans had matched Liverpool’s press and mileage and were the better side in the opening exchanges, but, as the game wore on they tired and didn’t have a big enough lead to see the Reds off. Swansea City 1 Liverpool 2.
To match this Liverpool you have to do it for 98 minutes, not with an hour and desperate hope. The key difference being that Swansea not only managed a shot, but a goal. If Everton went in at half time a goal up they would have sunk deeper as Sunderland had and hung on for all they were worth. They didn’t have that luxury. Instead, they had to come out and play, but, and this is the rub, with tired legs. Now, Liverpool found space.
True, the Blues were unlucky not to take a point but come that stage a draw would have felt like a win for them. They had nothing left. Sadio Mane did. He had enough to get to the ball, to finish, to celebrate and not notice, as Gibbo pointed on the main podcast, that the pitch was on fire around him.
The other similar game was the victory at Old Trafford in December 2000 — the first of Danny Murphy’s triumvirate of 1-0 wins.
We hadn’t won there in years and even the great sides of the 70s and 80s had struggled there. During that game the United end had a banner that proclaimed “Ten Years and Counting” or some such. I doubt that flag made it home.
Liverpool had now won at Old Trafford. We didn’t do that sort of thing back then but now, suddenly, we did. Something had changed. We’d made a statement. Liverpool do this now.
Alright, we have a good record at Goodison — although four consecutive draws there left room for improvement — but Monday night showed that even the big games when we’re pushed to the wire mean nothing while we have this mentality.
Liverpool don’t just take a tricky point anymore. Liverpool keep going in. Liverpool follow up on shots even though we’ve ran the equivalent of the Moon and back. Liverpool do this now.
The Reds are coming up the hill, boys
Three years ago this week, I joined Neil, Robbo and Rob to discuss Liverpool’s 17th league game that season. The four of us were a little worse for wear in the Radio City Tower as the Reds had gone top at Christmas with 36 points on the board.
The optimism was high because we didn’t usually find ourselves there at Christmas. Luis Suarez had more or less beaten Cardiff City on his own and we were having that conversation. Is this the league?
The fact that we were even suggesting it was exhilarating. Liverpool had 36 points from 17 games and anything was possible.
Imagine that, we thought. 36 points from 17 games. That’s mad.
Today, after 17 games, Liverpool have 37 points.
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We’re a different side, too. We’re not reliant on Suarez first and then Daniel Sturridge/Raheem Sterling. We don’t have one genius. We don’t have one striker. That would mean a focal point. Liverpool don’t need a focal point any more. We have an army. We are legion. Keep one quiet — keep all of them quiet — for as long as you can but then think about Sturridge holding the ball up and waiting and waiting and waiting before he scuffs one at the point. Then think about Sadio Mane. Then think about how we tried to get another when everyone else was knackered. We could have run the clock down and took the 1-0 but we wanted a second, just as James Milner had done when Divock Origi had won the game at Sunderland.
We wanted more.
Yes, we’re a different side — a relentless one. That’s the word I keep coming back to. Liverpool are relentless now. One that faces two hard, hard away games in five days and are still not satisfied when Joel Robles is on his knees in tears. We want more and now we get more.
And that’s the statement. Liverpool are relentless. Liverpool should always be relentless. Liverpool ARE fucking relentless.
Thirty seven points from 17 games, ladies and gentlemen. 37 from 17.
One hell of a statement.