WHAT a journey we’ve been on.
Sometimes you just need to stand back and take stock of how much Liverpool have advanced in the modern day, and how much coverage of the club has changed in accordance with that.
Yes, we’ve gone from “Another Wasted Corner” to “Another Late Liverpool Goal”. Oh to be a mentality monster, eh?
They don’t half put you through the ringer, and this particular ringer started at approximately 4pm today when the team was announced. Most were probably unsure what we were going to see from Jürgen Klopp’s team selection, but nobody in their wildest dreams saw that coming.
Virgil had gone from not training and sending social media into a frenzy, to being fully fit for the game, to actually being ill and leaving captain Jordan Henderson to fill in.
Add to that James Milner at right back, a midfield of Lallana, Keita and Chamberlain, and Origi and Shaqiri in the front three and you might have your maddest team selection of the last 24 hours.
And it started just like that. All a bit mad. Monterrey approaching the game in a similar vein to Red Bull Salzburg last week, lashing balls in behind with all their lads running their heads off.
Liverpool looked disjointed, but were still able to produce moments of quality through Naby Keita and Mo Salah. And then the first goal comes.
We may look back on this month as a watershed moment in the Liverpool career of Keita, but it is also proving watershed in the season of Salah. The Guinean is starting to show signs of living up to his billing, while the Egyptian is finally starting to find his peak form.
Henderson does his best to replicate the way in which van Dijk brings the ball out from the back and disrupts teams, but the back four looked void of somebody to really call the shots. The captain said after the game that Joe Gomez helped talk him through it, but there were times where Liverpool’s famous high line wasn’t quite flat enough to be effective.
The Monterrey goal is scrappy, but after 15 minutes it was sort of expected they’d be scrappy. It was probably their only shot of the game that came within 20 yards of Alisson’s goal, but it would have meant no less to them at the time.
They did a good job of disrupting Liverpool’s rhythm for much of the game. They kicked lumps out of their opposite numbers and bought fouls wherever they could. but were always dangerous breaking quickly. There were a few occasions where Gomez looked wary of the fact he was part of a back four containing two midfielders. And you can’t blame him.
You can’t fault James Milner at right back either. He’s not well protected in the first half, and that’s where Chamberlain and even Keita don’t bring what Henderson and Wijnaldum bring as the right and left-sided central midfielders, but both definitely do their bit going forward.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was how much success Monterrey enjoyed down their right-hand side through Dorlan Pabon. Xherdan Shaqiri has his second below-par game in a row and it shows, as does his lack of contribution to the team’s defensive shape.
It was no surprise to see Klopp eventually call for the big guns. In a way, it felt a bit like Stoke away in 2017, where a mad team selection is saved by the best lads coming off the bench just as the opposition had started to gas themselves out.
The winning goal is a real moment of quality that didn’t seem likely to come before the three changes are made. It’s another assist to Trent’s name but it’s also one of his best this season, his awareness to spot Firmino’s run shows it’s not only a big inswinger that he’s got in his locker.
The Reds come away from the game feeling like they got their just deserts, but there was a feeling late on that Monterrey could have nicked something if they just had that touch more quality.
Instead it was Liverpool that were able to let their quality shine through once again, and hopefully Saturday’s team selection may be a bit more straightforward to make everything a bit more straightforward.
For now it’s Another Late Liverpool Goal and another 90 minutes from silverware for these Reds.
“GET INNN! The Reds are in the final of the Club World Cup.” 🏆
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) December 18, 2019