Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Atalanta 0 Liverpool 1 in the Europa League quarter final second leg…



They lose it at Anfield.

Important to be clear.

They lose it at Anfield.

This team never suits first gear and last Thursday it was too much of that. Anfield. That was the truth of this second leg.

They nearly win it back first half. They don’t, but they nearly do and that is all about Trent Alexander-Arnold.

We have hit that point. The manager is the greatest. The greatest of my adult life. The greatest person we could ever know. He’d be the best at anything – carer, accountant, CEO (those roles in order of significance to human life). He is the one. Our one. My one.

But he can’t be the one now. Now the players need to be the ones; this is the stage of the season this is always true, but for us – now – it has never been more true. And for 45 minutes we see that with Trent Alexander-Arnold. He was the one and if we pull six wins out we may need him to be man of the match four times.

He was exceptional until he wasn’t, until he was knackered. He does things no other player in the world can do. Or will try. He sees everything, sends everything. He could well be the greatest deep-lying player on the planet and first half you see it. Second half you see him tire. He is fresh back. But he is the finest imaginable. He is different class, but unable to sustain it.

That is the backdrop of tonight. We have six more elsewhere as well as this. This isn’t our final. When it gets to 45 and it is only 0-1, when Gasperini gets them in – and God bless him, by the way – when they come out of the washing machine, you need rationality. You need forward planning.

They show aspects of that with the substitutions. You want it to catch fire tonight, but I want Sunday to catch fire too. Because the greatest prize of it all is just there if we can find our way and get a bit of luck.

Cody Gakpo was bright as a button again. Curtis Jones is probably Liverpool’s best over 90. He is looking increasingly sharp and increasingly useful. It looks a game too many for Alexis Mac Allister, who needs a bit of help now, and Dominik Szoboszlai needs to settle himself.

I am glad the goalkeeper is back and that Liverpool got to pick their best back five. We need to do that from here on out. But the second half isn’t good, it needs to be stronger and needs to be sharper.

The manager is the best of us, but that sharpness second half could do with coming from him and it is never quite there. But the players need to be the ones. We need to be the ones with them and let them take this thing on. It belongs to them and us and needs to be a tribute to him now.

He has given us the values and we run on together. Genuinely together. You, me and everyone we know.

Last night was the first night you felt the end of what he has meant for us, the first time you engaged with that fully and that isn’t bad as such, it isn’t scary as such, it is simply the way of the world.

No one, not even he, can go forever. Recently a Manchester United supporter said to me that five years at Liverpool is like 10 anywhere else, that the emotion is so much, that the emotion you need to harness burns the candle at both ends. Christ, how he has harnessed it. Therefore, Christ, how it could have burned.

He gave everything to us on every stage and this is the end of him and us on a European one. Gave us our pride and global meaning back, our sense of strutting self in front of the world, our idea of what this is meant to be, he gave us the greatest gift.

And now we have six games to give it back, not to do it for him, but to do it for us, because he reminded us of what us actually means.

We don’t win for him, we win for us, for our cause, our desire, our sense of Liverpudlian-ism in a global way because he demonstrated what that was worth, what it meant to bring everyone with you, that everyone being invited to this thing of ours makes it better. He goes, nothing stops: our role intensifies and that starts now.

This is our thing and he reminded us of that. And we need to give it back to him. All in, all in for everything. Us and the 11 on the pitch. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s Liverpool. Virgil van Dijk’s Liverpool. Curtis Jones’s Liverpool.

Six to go. Six reasons to love and live. Six nights to dance. With you. Six more goes on the carousel with the fella who fixed it. Only six, but they are ours and we devote them collectively to him.

Morning. Six more flights of fancy doing our thing with Jürgen Klopp.

All the best.


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