Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Aston Villa 3 Liverpool 3 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…


IT was a bloody stupid game of football throughout in Birmingham.

It started in the first two minutes when their keeper appeared to catch it and then lash it into his own net.

It ended with the ball ricocheting off Jhon Duran’s knee after Liverpool had laid themselves bare for no apparent reason. It wasn’t so much Liverpool being undone as Liverpool’s trousers falling down.

Nothing made sense all game. Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo, John McGinn and Pau Torres wanted a sensible game of football. The issue was that nobody else did, other than Alexis Mac Allister who very much did until he didn’t and/or couldn’t.

Liverpool were cruising. Cruising at 0-1. Cruising at 1-3. Cruising until they were crashing into any available iceberg while so many experienced players decided it was fine. The ball that Alisson Becker – who has won and seen it all – plays into Mac Allister at 1-3 verges on the deranged. Mac Allister has all but written his resignation letter from the game in the 60 seconds that precede the pass, but here it comes anyway, whether he likes it or not.

He didn’t like it. He wasn’t alone. Aston Villa liked it, pounced on it and prospered. It became the game’s decisive moment.

Liverpool had been the better side. Not with the sort of dominance we had seen against Tottenham Hotspur but with enough to spare. Aston Villa’s race looked run.

But no one offers encouragement like The Reds. No one looks a gift horse in the mouth quite like them. No side in the land is more open to silliness and it is this which the next manager will need to address.

It isn’t something to make you furious tonight – the season is what it is. But it can’t remain or sustain. This side has ended this campaign with an achilles heel and the achilles heel in question is stored in a pair of clown shoes, standing on a rake and being hit in the face with a custard pie.

Anyway… Cody Gakpo played very well and Joe Gomez did crisis defending well.

And everyone sang to and about Jürgen Klopp.

I was with Steve and Rob and Paul today. We were all at his first game together, his first away, as were Kristian and Phil who we also saw in a couple of Birmingham’s finest pubs.

Dan Austin was here who had gone to Kazan to see the manager’s first European away. Kazan! Fucking Kazan. Because football takes you to Kazan. You go to Kazan.

You get to go everywhere if you want and see everything.

I like Birmingham an awful lot.

I worry I am boring. I worry that time and time again when I come here I write this. I tell you the people are brilliant and the architecture is striking and the history is prominent.

The history – the thing about this city is it was amongst the first to cast itself apart from the rest of the nation. To understand Birmingham in the 1880s is to understand what England does to anyone who dares to strike their own path. This remains a wonderful teeming metropolis and its teeming essence should be the heart of England’s life.

Because of all of this, in the medium term, these are a “threat” insofar as anyone is. Perhaps I am all Jürgen Klopp these days – I don’t really care about threats. I like football teams to play. This country is about to have its top league become dominated by a top eight for at least a season or two and it is only right and proper that one of that top eight comes from this city, this unique place.

This lot – tonight’s opponents – they know where football can take you and how. It’s perhaps part of why I like this city an awful lot. It’s a European city.

They will probably get Europe’s premier competition next season and they’ll love it, and people across the continent will flock here as they will to our city, and they’ll get that brush of magic.

We’ve had so many brushes of magic, we don’t know we’re born. We’ve been to PSG and Napoli. And so on. And so on. And so on. Liverpool scored three.

We went there together, all together. We saw those places and had that that magic with him and with them and because of him none of that has to stop. Nothing gets switched off, we just go on to new places without him while he gets on with the rest of his life, able to go to places himself and spend time in them and see them, and not have a match or a training session or a press conference to worry about. He gets to live like we have.

He didn’t just offer a brush of magic or a thousand brushes of magic. He offered life over and over again, and now he has to go and live his without a football club to worry about.

Cut out the silly stuff and we’ll be fine. Better than fine. Don’t you worry about us. It was brilliant to be on the road with him, on the march with him. None of that stops in essence. That’s the thing about football. It never finishes and it contains everyone who was ever within it. Dreams and songs to sing, you see.

Forza Liverpool. Forza life. Forza living it.


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