FULL TIME AT ANFIELD REVIEW: REDS SPANK GUNNERS AS LIVERPOOL DO DOUBLE OVER RIVALS
Here’s the scenario, if the EPL were a league with just the top 6 – Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, and maybe we can throw in Everton for Derby importance then maybe Liverpool would be on top of the league enjoying close to invincible seasons every time because we always seem to get result against these guys. Over the years as well in Europe (UCL) we’ve enjoyed results too against the big sides like Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Barcelona for the sole reason that our playing style, and most importantly, mentality is best suited against big teams who look to open us up and they rarely play with truly parking-the-bus style of compact defending because they want to keep the build-up going and they really think they can get a result from us so why hold back. And therein lies the error that we’ve so perfectly capitalized on this season as we still remain unbeaten against the top sides in the league.
But here’s the thing, even if we win both home and away fixtures against these sides, we still can’t win the league not with 36 points in this situation and certainly not to losing our edge and points when playing teams at the bottom half of the table. Our losses this season have come in matches against Burnley, Bournemouth, Swansea City, Hull City, and Leicester. And it isn’t a case of the lads underestimating them, it’s just the problem of the mentality these teams go in when pitted against the Reds – they defend like their lives depend on it more often than not placing nine men around their own box, they don’t bother trying to build something up but rather focus on hitting us on the counter every chance they get and then go back to defending and this makes them extremely hard to play against especially if these ‘small’ sides get to doing this from the off.
Today, I fully expected the Reds to win against Arsenal, almost put money on it even– I was that confident simply because, banter aside, Arsenal are a big team and the lads will be looking to show up looking a much-improved side after our disastrous capitulation against Leicester. And like death and taxes, the lads showed up for the duel motivated, implemented Red Rain early, bossed play in the first 45 minutes, got the early goal through Firmino then the second moments away from the half time whistle through superbly struck ball by Sadio Mané ending the half in the perfect way.
The second half saw Arsenal shifting gears a bit with the introduction of Alexis Sanchez whose absence in the first half was felt by both sides with the Reds playing with that much ease as the threat of that tenacious Arshavin-esque Chilean MVP wasn’t present to cause us any worries. Immediately Sanchez got the lads playing a bit more careful to not lose the ball in silly areas but even that didn’t stop him from making his mark as an unbelievable run from the Chilean saw him fly past our defenders in the 57th minute and slid a majestic through ball which Welbeck handled correctly, getting out of its way to let it roll into our box before chipping his effort to the far corner leaving Mignolet well beaten. Just prior, we were denied a penalty with a push that got Firmino down – legit penalty and the lads were protesting the Ref’s wave to play on as the Gunners got the counter going leading to the goal much to our dismay.
With the alarm bells blaring in the minds of Klopp’s men as the match was thrown open after that goal, the contest got fiercer as attacks went in on both sides of the pitch but even then it was the Reds that looked more menacing but just lacked that final finishing touch to get back our 2 goal cushion and possibly more.
With 10 minutes to go in regulation time, Klopp made a decisive substitution bringing in Divock Origi for Coutinho seeing as Arsenal were pushing more bodies forward to get a second goal and Origi’s speed might just be needed if we got a successful counter going. This proved masterful as in the 1st minute of injury time as an Arsenal attack that broke down in our final third was picked up with Lallana charging through the middle of the park before releasing Origi on the right with the Belgian storming down the wing with Wijnaldum almost matching him stride for stride as our midfielder seeing the opportunity rushed to get himself in the center forward position. Origi saw his move and whipped in a low cross that found Gini and the Dutchman calmly slotted it past Cech into the bottom right to send the Kop into raptures. With that it was just a matter of running the clock down and containing subsequent attacks by the Gunners which we did well to get all three points at the full time whistle. Much deserved win for Liverpool as the lads worked unbelievably hard from start to finish, outclassing Arsenal to get us back in the top four in 3rd position although Manchester City do have two games in hand and Arsenal dropping to 5th position. Happy days!
Milner (7.2), Klavan (7.6), Matip (7.3), Clyne (6.8);
Wijnaldum (8.0), Emre Can (6.4), Lallana (8.0);
Sadio Mané (8.3), Firmino (8.0), Coutinho (7.8).
Special rating: Divock Origi (7.5).
MAN OF THE MATCH