A STROLL? A side put to the sword? An enjoyable game for Liverpool?
It’s the last thing I hope that Liverpool focus on in the dressing room, on the plane, on the training pitch. How enjoyable it was to play, and create, and score.
We can want them to get this sort of score against better opposition but everything starts somewhere. Every journey needs to start with a single step.
Liverpool’s Champions League journey proper has that step. It could be that the season took that step on Saturday. The whole club needs the week to become one of straightforward achievement on Sunday. But more on that in a second.
Before that: 7-0.
It is Liverpool Football Club’s biggest ever away win in Europe they tell me; English football’s biggest ever away win in Europe’s premier club competition. And they achieved it by always having one more man.
For so much of the game they had the next pass, the next ball, the next shot, the man over. Never was this clearer than when it wasn’t clear who had actually finished Liverpool’s fourth. It could have been either or both. It looks to have been Mo Salah and I say that more about the reaction than the goal itself.
It’s easy to talk this sort of result down but the honest truth is that it doesn’t happen all that often. It may well be that Maribor met Liverpool at the wrong time — a very good side looking to exorcise some demons and send out a bit of a signal. It may well be that Liverpool have just clicked into gear in front of our very eyes. It may well be that they just had a dreadful day at the office; gameplan out the window after four minutes.
Whatever it is while this shouldn’t make the whole of Europe quake, nor sit up and take notice, it should make Tottenham Hotspur think “we could do without this”. Indeed the Premier League in general could do without another side who have genuine goals in their boots.
But this was the reality anyway. Liverpool have goals in their boots. The trick hasn’t been how to put them there, one poor half against Newcastle United to one side, the trick has instead been about dragging them out of their boots, dragging them out of the expected goals stats and into the actual goals reality.
Expected goals (xG) is a stat that sets some teeth on edge but the better way to think about it is predicted or even average goals. What should happen is footballers perform in an average manner. Liverpool have been underperforming that when their players should out perform it given their quality. And all this while not quite creating the chances they should either.
Poor finishing though can be a virus. It spreads quickly. Good finishing can also be a virus as we saw tonight. My mate has bagged, so I bag. We’re all Reds here. All Reds together.
Indeed, that’s the moral of the evening. From Philippe Coutinho’s second onwards the result was never in doubt, only how many and who would get in on the act. This is a Liverpool side which can now remember scoring goals. It’s there, in the memory banks.
They scored flowing team moves, explosive breaks and used patient football. They kept it in and around the penalty area. They probed. They had a goal disallowed for offside. Indeed, they got the deflected goal and only lacked the rebound tap-in goal to have completed some sort of set.
There are a million and one positives to take:
- One more man.
- Roberto Firmino ending his mini drought.
- James Milner playing inside to out and flat-track bullying.
- One more man.
- Emre Can enjoying a straightforward night at the base of the midfield.
- Coutinho being wonderful.
- Oxlade-Chamberlain being baptised in the Liverpudlian goalscoring way.
- One more. Just one more.
There is always another game when you are in October. Always another chance to prove something, another need to prove something. Manchester City put seven past Stoke City; they have to prove it again against Burnley. These are the facts.
For Liverpool, what there is to prove is that they are better than Tottenham (they are one on one) that they can do intense quick football better than North London’s finest (they can). This thing of ours challenges us all the time. Football’s ever flowing river with its breaks and rapids, never more rapid than in October.
Liverpool hit seven. Now they need to hit Spurs. Then they will be in the midst of hitting back. It’s a historic night. It’s all about the next game.