THEY flit. Sadio Mane comes across and Mo Salah sees him. Goes the other side and fills the space.
No one sees this because right in front of all of us, the Stoke players, the Liverpool end, everyone is fixated on Mane. How can you not be? The pace and the power of him. He’s the centre of the known universe and is bursting through to the byline. Look at him.
But Mane isn’t fixated on Mane. He is fixated on the world around him. On the bigger picture. He dangles it. Hangs it up. It’s sumptuous you know, and it is so close I think I can touch it but I can’t, Stoke’s defenders can’t, Lee Grant can’t. Only Salah can.
It’s on his left foot and he strikes it and I heard this and then it is there and Liverpool are there and then that is the thing and the whole of the thing.
It is what you go to school for. Why you spend the day excited about watching a football team. The moment there forever moist and glistening. The thud and the net and the bodies everywhere. The Reds.
Can’t do without you.
Can’t do without the quality and the timing and the wonder. It’s what turns watching a football team into something much more. Walking out Ben Johnson heard a young Stoke supporter say to someone who was presumably his dad:
“Why haven’t we got any players like that?”
Why haven’t we got any players like that. Christ. It breaks your heart. I’ve watched Liverpool sides lacking it, that irresistible, barely describable thing I waste so many words on in articles like this. That glory and brio and succulence. You know it when it isn’t there. You feel its absence. You yearn for it.
It’s a reminder of how lucky we are. I could well have walked out the most frustrated on Saturday. Disappointed not to have won. But we get to watch these and we get to expect to win, expect to see that quality. We get this and we get it regularly. Thirteen sides in the country don’t.
You know it when it is there. You know it. It helps you sleep of a night and wake up of a morning. You know it is there when you have the top scorer in the country.
What a season Mo Salah is having. He’s far surpassing the expectations there were for him.
We should have been 0-3 ahead at half time. We should have gone to 10 men. We got there in the end.
I went the game tonight. You probably saw more than me. You probably did — on row six right behind the goal I saw a lot of the crossbar and a lot of the netting. I didn’t see a lot of midfield. I saw Liverpool scrapping and I saw them emerge with the ball and I saw them advance. The shape of it I didn’t see, not like you.
But I saw the brilliance up close. Saw it and felt it. It was there and Liverpool were there.