Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool x Luton Town x in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…

 

YOU didn’t expect the best 15 or 20 minutes of the season tonight.

But my god you got them.

It was bedlam in there for a bit. I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head.

This is my favourite ever Liverpool song/hymnal:

Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrgghhhhhh
Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrgghhhhhh
Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrgghhhhhh

And then the chorus which goes:

Aaaaarrrgghhhh-aaaarrrggghhh

Like Come All Ye Faithful it doesn’t come out very often. You sort of don’t want it to. You want to keep it back for special occasions.

The home game against Luton Town in February, I didn’t expect it to be getting a runout.

But, my friends, for the first time this season I’d venture, we looked into the abyss. I can tell you every moment of every season where I’ve felt swallowed by the abyss. It is practically my specialist subject. Yet there is also looking at the abyss and deciding not today. Sorry. Not today.

Virgil van Dijk is the biggest not today man out there. He was marvellous and got the brilliant goal he deserved. He truly is a colossus and this is emphatically his team. He is an inspiration to them and they became a credit to him.

All of this is so impressive because he does it from centre half. Though I really enjoyed the five minutes he went upfront second half relentlessly.

The song/hymnal was required because while Liverpool could and should have scored first half, it belonged to Luton Town and the longer it went the more it was theirs.

Luton Town are a credit to themselves and their manager. He sets them up in a way which is high risk and high reward. We see the risks in Luis Diaz’s two one-on-ones he has in the first five or so minutes.

But the rewards come when they eventually frustrate and trap Liverpool into indecision over the course of the half. They leave great oceans of space in order to create breakdowns where they want and then ferry the ball to Ross Barkley to conduct.

Barkley has a genuinely free role. He became the first half’s centrifugal force and Liverpool had few answers. It’s a team performance from Luton, though. They work for their collective cause and believe in it.

Eventually, second half, the risk around fitness becomes too great. They tire, fall back on themselves and falter, but they display constant courage in their free hit at Anfield.

It had taken a brilliant half time. Liverpool came out and everyone and everything was better, crisper, sharper; but the real change was this — Liverpool ran at them. Every single Liverpool player seemingly had a run, had a carry, committed a Luton player and found space.

No one epitomised that more than Harvey Elliott, whose first half had been in danger of leaving him the vessel for frustration, but instead became a way home. Conor Bradley was similarly more aggressive, starting higher and carrying more.

Suddenly, split seconds of quality opened the gaps, suddenly Liverpool were in the penalty area and suddenly they were no longer staring into the abyss, instead they were inevitable.

The captain gets the equaliser after Liverpool set up shop in the Luton box. Cody Gakpo makes it two with a brilliant reaction header from Alexis Mac Allister’s cross which was reminiscent of Divock Origi against Barcelona and Anfield doesn’t relent.

Liverpool remain first to everything, Van Dijk elicits one of the best saves of the season from Thomas Kaminski before Luis Diaz wrong foots him for the third.

Liverpool are then home and hosed before Jayden Danns shows brio and Harvey Elliott’s goal means that all three of Liverpool’s forwards score yet again. Liverpool score four in a half yet again. Liverpool are top of the league yet again and the pressure is on elsewhere.

Ross Barkley remained tremendous, you know. He loves a reverse to the point I hear a beeping tone when he has the ball. He sways one way and flicks a pass the other, sends everyone.

At the start of the game, he was like peak Gascoigne. Towards the end, he tired. So he was like old Gascoigne. At one point at 3-1 he trundled past four and won a freekick. Liverpool worked everything out bar Barkley.

But no matter. They had our points at 45 and without a number of first-team players we wrestled them back. We got to sing the best song and we got to enjoy the rewards all together. The manager went to every stand, because he only has six more matches and we went mad.

Went mad because the next fella may well just comfortably beat Luton or their ilk at home and not turn it into an emotional odyssey full of togetherness, and redemption, and joy, and all the things you want your life to contain all the time, all the things all our lives should get to contain.

In the league it is the City Ground next, for Nottingham Forest. Between now and then there are two cup ties to enjoy, but tonight we made clear that this is the real business and that we won’t allow the manager to go gentle into that good night, that we will burn, rave and rage our way towards this league title if that is what it will take. Take me and do as you wish.

It will take everything. Every strain, every sinew, every injury, every unspoken thought, want and need. Everything. Sing it back to me…

Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrgghhhhhh.

Neil


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