Neil Atkinson’s post-match review after Liverpool 3 Leicester City 3 before a 5-4 win on penalties in the League Cup quarter final at Anfield…
Today me and Adam Melia texted one another. “The Worst Timed Game In History,” he said and I concurred. Said I’m going to use that, you know.
I mentioned Adam in something I wrote for Ruth And Martin’s Album Club about LCD Soundsystem’s album Sound Of Silver. It’s gone now but in it I asked this question: Have you had the best night out of your life? Has it already happened? Is it to come?
Long-term readers know we are never truly writing about what we should be writing about.
Today, as the worst timed game in history unfolded it managed to shift gears from “absolute chore” to “most fun you have had in this ground since Shrewsbury” in the blink of an eye.
And it makes this observation fair: “You can never know if you have had the best night out of your life while Jurgen Klopp is at Anfield doing the business.”
It’s been hard. I know it has. The time of year is always more of a slog than we care to admit. The additional burdens and uncertainties haven’t helped. The fact we all despise these fuckers in power, taking power, holding power, abusing power has been a kick in the face over and over.
It’s been hard and obviously I have just wanted to hold you and tell you that, and that in itself is hard.
But The Reds. Honestly, The Reds.
Tonight is the sweetest kiss on the forehead. It’s the hand on the arm, the glint in the eye, the shake of the hips, the bite of the lips.
Tonight is reminding you of the people you had the adventure with. Tonight is the invitation to adventures to come.
The worst timed game in history, the League Cup quarter final with Christmas on the horizon, with a to-do list long as your arm, with a pandemic banging on, becomes a reminder of all that is good about this thing of ours. The ghost of big games past, big games present and big games yet to come.
They just delight you.
The football. Leicester pick a strong team. They pick a Jamie Vardy team and Vardy has a ball around Billy Koumetio, Liverpool keep giving it away cheaply and suffer. We are carrying too many vulnerabilities. The whole right side can’t cope and the stress test is too much.
But Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are not to be cowed and both remain bright and link up well. When Liverpool grab that one back you just begin to wonder.
The James Maddison drive though takes wind out of sails. Just stay in it, Reds. It is hard to work out when the shift happens but their end helps matters. So deeply, needlessly obnoxious you went from being interested to wanting to needing.
(Feed The Scousers, by the way? We feast tonight on your broken dreams you absolute frigging ghouls. Enjoy the trip back to Leicester where the streets are paved with gold.)
For the first and third the keeper should do better. But redemption comes after the fall as we all know. You can’t have one without the other.
Liverpool’s subs repeatedly change everything. Leicester’s subs do the same. They weaken as we strengthen but weirdly, unexpected during the worst timed game in history, we need more than want and want for all time. We want the story. We want another yarn. We crave the anecdote. The lesson. The adventure.
Liverpool are the better side and first to everything. Leicester are bemused and wasting time and feigning injury. They don’t want to know. Liverpool want to know. Liverpool want the whole kit and kaboodle and suddenly Diogo Jota scores a very Diogo Jota goal and suddenly this is the best night out of my life.
I have Heaton just there, and Gutmann just there, and we would give literal body organs to win this game, you know, because of loads of good reasons and also a dollop of fuck everybody, and now Leicester are neither here nor there, and my god have you seen six thousand people bottle it at once?
Footballing miracles, on a weekly basis, and they want to eat you alive. All the best.
Heaton says “this is 2-3 on 90 and they’ll go” and there it is. After Ibrahima Konate is certain and Joe Gomez is solid. After James Milner bristles and Naby Keita struts. Suddenly, again suddenly, the ball drops to Takumi Minamino and he is resplendent. He is unerring. He is one of ours.
He almost lets us down later. But what is the redemption without the fall? And what is being part of this team if someone doesn’t dig you out? The beauty of this Liverpool, our Liverpool, the Liverpool that truly matters, the one that gets you out of bed is that no one ever truly is left alone. The prettiest green eyes.
Jota digs him out. The lad from Cork gets his glorious moment. The boys stand up over and over. The worst timed game in history becomes a Christmas carol and I miss you, I always did, I always will.
You’ll excuse the soppiness.
The next round comes and a thing dings in my head. Quadruple. It dings and it disappears, something to park for now. Something to not think again, at least not for a while. But the best night out in the world? Always, with these characters, I wouldn’t rule anything out.
And if I’m sued into submission,
I can still come home to this…
They’ll be here, this Liverpool side. Reminding us of the past, promising us a future. I told you I love a yarn. Always an adventure.
We’re in the midst of an awfully big one.
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“That was absolutely fantastic. Every element of that second half! One of the greatest things about Anfield is when there’s a second half siege. We were flying in and their heads had gone.”
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Glorious stuff. Merry Christmas folks, here’s to a fantastic 2022!
Leicester came with their UCL final squad and still lost
That lad I really like him giving their end loads of shit after his pen he really understand the game and also loves the needle.
Jota the slotter He will surpass Mo by the time he comes back from Afcon.
A proper goal poacher I mean a fox in the box.
What a fella.
Spectacular Neil. 10/10 Glen Campbell nod
Class. Making my wife read this to help her understand me.
From the heart Neil, it shines through in your writing.
At half time I think many Reds would write it off, we don’t need Carabao cup consternation. If we progress, fine, if not, think we will live.
The second half, especially the last 30 minutes we found our rhythm, I know better than to write this side off. Anyone who puts on the shirt, the hunger remains. We still LOOK like Liverpool, we still come, no matter the personnel.
At 3-1 down all I wanted was a response in the second half.
I got it.
We got it.
Sad to see Divock couldn’t make it because at 3-1 this was right up his alley. But everyone worked hard. And we go on.
Thanks to all you lads and girls at TAW, I’ve converted a few of my friends into checking you, it’s quality and from the heart so keep it up lads and girls…
Wow….excellent writing style!!!!
Brilliant Neil. Great work. I am going to read this until the end of my days.
Fantastic stuff as always Neil.
Footballing miracales just added another chapter.
As much as a two legged semi final in January will hurt, it will all be worth it as long as we go and win this thing now.
Neil, you got me really gushing with admiration. I’m in love with your writing. You plug the emotion button on and roll us through the wide smiles of Meyside river.
As a writer myself, this is a great piece.
Poetry in motion…
Absolutely nailed it with this piece. Was there for the Barca “oh what a night” Revival but somehow this meant more. My 7yr old lads first ever game at Anfield.
3-1 down at halftime I reminded him it’s all about supporting the team to the last minute, no matter what. As we shared a soggy donut and sung along to bob (“don’t worry… about a thing”) and the bee jees (stayin’ alive – we did, didn’t we!) the hope came back.
In renewed voice we went again. Kop in full song. No idea why the Leicester fans felt the need to awaken the beast. But the Kraken they wanted and the Kraken they got.
Maddison’s gesture to the Kop, Schmeichel’s time wasting and every blue shirt flopping wound us up… then they pushed Millie. “Stick Together” – teammates, staff, fans closed ranks behind our Captain – “What a game” was all my lad could repeat on the soccerbus home.
My lad learnt some words he shouldn’t have, but he also learned some history he should have. What this government thinks it can take can’t be measured in nickels and cents. What this city has is worth more than pounds and pence.
You’ll Never Walk Alone, we never will ✊
What a game. What an atmosphere, What a result. What a (second-half) performance.
The players. The manager. The fans. Shankly knew the importance of this “holy trinity”.
Leicester lost any initiative they may have had in the first-half. Second-half it was wrested from them. This must have been (another) great half-time talk from Klopp and his guys.
On Leicester’s tactics, this was in The Guardian. Thought I would share it.
“Albert Einstein was right about Leicester. Their stars collapse under their own weight in an extreme distortion of space and time-wasting. Inside the black hole of Schmeichel’s mind is a baffling reversal of physics: random clearances, endless boot scraping against the goal post and the slowing of time to a standstill. Suddenly all these tiny bullshit stoppages become six minutes extra time and then boom, a ball of hot nothingness collapses in on itself.”
– written by some dude called PunCrock (https://bit.ly/32xbXaf) not me
Leicester thought they had us. Then they didn’t. Can’t imagine what the atmosphere at their training will be like today.
Hope LFC.tv to an “Inside Anfield” on this one. Thanks to all those who attended this match. The atmosphere was again amazing. It helped change and turn this match.
Up the Reds.
A 3 act melodrama:
The debutant boxer constantly outfought by a crude and experienced fighter
Our man, aware of the crowd support, now finds an inner strength and balance is restored
with seconds to the final bell the weary challenger is sent to the floor, and victory is ours