Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 4 Chelsea 1 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…


HAHAHA! Oh God! Oh my word.

Arriving in The Glenbuck, Adam Melia beaming says to me: “We are in rude health. I have never known us in such rude health.”

Adam – something broke in me, watching on this winter’s eve.

Oh my word. Oh God!

Liverpool’s first-half performance is among the all-time great halves on this ground. They marmalise Chelsea. They carve them up and feast on the rind. They take them to the cleaners. They drag them from pillar to post.

They have the run of the gaff because it is their gaff — they are the most certain of that. Chelsea are left knowing what good football is because most of them have played it from time to time, but also knowing the aching abyss of being second best in every department.

They also know Conor Bradley’s name. It is a tour de force of a performance. Not an announcement because we have had that, it was the performance of a footballer asserting himself 50 starts deep. Except he is essentially five deep.

It’s Ballymena Man Craig Hannan’s birthday tomorrow. What Bradley is, in a very direct way for me, is a reminder of what it means to have someone who represents you playing for this team.

Craig could have no better representative, he could ask for no more. Bradley is tenacious, determined and certain of his ground. He has a swagger and flick of the hips. So too does the birthday boy.

To be young is divine. Bradley is dominant in every phase, aggressive in every phase. He knows when to hold em, knows when to fold em, knows when to walk away, knows when to run.

His performance is consummate and, if he isn’t man of the match, it is because either Virgil van Dijk or Alexis Mac Allister lashed in a performance equivalent to their best of the season.

They lashed in a performance equivalent to their best of the season. Mac Allister first because he is easier.

He is the smartest kid in class. He knows every answer and now he backs himself in every step, in his picture of the pitch in his own mind. This compact Liverpool team is his and the better it performs the more he is at its heart. His late clash that felled him was the only real downside on a magnificent day.

Virgil van Dijk, though.

Hahaha! Oh God! Oh my word. I will never love a footballer more, you know.

Tonight he is exemplary. Everything little thing he does is magic. It isn’t a position often depicted with wizardry, but there he is — Gandalf or fucking whatever.

(I am not good at wizards but the game kicked off at 20.15 and I have started the metaphor now so here we are.)

Wise but constant, tall and just better, just cleaner, just ineffable.

His ball for the third was a night out. A reason for a night out. Sublime.

I loved the number nine. His was the complete number nine performance. Bar, well, the round thing in the rectangular thing.

It beggars belief how good he is, how impossible he is, but how he doesn’t bag at least one. He batters Thiago Silva – by the way what a passer of the ball he is – all over the place. He asks Chelsea a million questions. Darwin Nunez is magnificent, but loves hitting the woodwork more than any footballer I have ever seen.

They were all great, though. They had a million shots, won a hundred challenges and four dozen headers. Every single one of them. They were all the best version of Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. And the knowledge of that both delights and hurts.

The truth of the matter around the rude health and the marvellousness of the football is that it is his rudeness and his marvellousness. That isn’t to say nobody else can manage either, but to wonder about managing it in his vision.

It is the vision which grabs, the idea that both football and life are constantly about courage and collective belief, the human idea that we back one another wholeheartedly, because there is nothing else.

In this instance, we get to see that live out for 100 minutes every few days, in football at least.

Hahaha! Oh God! Oh my word.

To see that vision writ as large as this, to live it and be part of it in some small way is humbling and inspiring. You are left in noises and exclamations, left overcome.

Hahaha! Oh God! Oh my word.

What happens from here happens. I fancy they go to Arsenal and get more than something. I fancy they dance on many dancefloors, because to dance is all there is.

I fancy them, I really do, and this season I always did. I didn’t think they would be whacking in some of the all-time great home performances in January, though. Yet here we are.

Sunday will be special, but then if any day is special, all of them can be. Here we are. And we are this good. The sirens sing me home. In the rudest of health, sunshine. In the rudest of health, gorgeous.

Hahaha! Oh God! Oh my word.

There are no hurdles. They are all a privilege.



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