Neil Atkinson’s post-match review after Liverpool 2 Atletico Madrid 0 in the fourth game of the Champions League group stage at Anfield…
THEY do the decent thing. The good thing. The better thing.
They qualify from the group as first place from just four games.
I’d have taken a draw. I’d have taken a draw before Porto and AC Milan kick off. I’d have taken a draw in both games against Atletico Madrid when the group was drawn. I’d have taken a draw.
Not them. Tonight they do the good thing but they do it by being the rabid thing. They tear into Atletico Madrid and they do so unapologetically. They decimate the Spanish Champions before they can catch their breath. They leave them in ribbons, they know they are secondary and that Liverpool are primary and this is Liverpool’s pitch.
The strangest thing about the evening becomes how distant the game at their place became. At their place these were two sides at the same level. At ours there was us and then there was them.
It’s a reminder that our opponents need the crowd to match us. For us, the crowd takes us far beyond where they can dream.
They do the decent thing. They convert that dominance into the opening goal. Contemplate that ball in. Most of us are fortunate to have a moment in our job where we find the crucial square foot, metaphorically or literally, which is marvellous. But most of us never have it in front of an audience of 55,000 directly and millions at home. And many of us don’t have a colleague so eager to convert.
But Jota does the decent thing. He makes it 1-0 and Liverpool are resplendent. Liverpool magnificent.
They are my favourites and when they make it two you have rarely seen the likes. Anfield wants to spit blood because somewhere these pricks are owed it. Because it has been too long. Because the best way we can ensure winning is by being so hardfaced that anything but is undesirable.
It becomes unnecessary. Sadio Mane does brilliantly and makes it two and then we all wonder what happens next. Then the next thing happens. The referee makes a massive call and it is, to all intents and purposes, then game over. The call I don’t and can’t understand. It was a yellow card yes, but perhaps there was a level of insult I don’t and can’t know on pitch.
If so, I am worried what they would make of me. I say awful things. Always have and always will.
Through the course of the game it is marvellous to see Fabinho and marvellous to see Thiago and marvellous to see Henderson released to both play football and command others how to do it better. These are the three that will see Liverpool to any glory this season.
But Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was marvellous. Bright and able to turn around corners, kryptonite to Atletico Madrid’s midfield. He was what they don’t want. Maybe what they don’t see.
It’s strange. Brighton was lots of the reasons why not but tonight was a ton of the reasons why and the Spanish Champions should be the bigger, tougher deal.
Chamberlain was the good deal, the better deal.
The group is now irrelevant for Liverpool. They have looked at the group of death and laughed. Dismissed it. Europe is no longer our concern until February. How strange. How rare. How much better.
Nothing wins itself. But tonight Liverpool have shown the levels between them and Europe’s second tier. That tier has some serious football teams. But there is them and there is us. And there is every chance we shall not be moved.
We should believe. Believing is decent, good and better. In believing we have something to believe in. Twelve from twelve. Wowser.
The Reds, my friends. No group of death for us.