By Harry Ewbank – @HreEwbank
Liverpool’s shot-stopping specialist Alisson Becker kept yet another clean sheet on Tuesday evening, as Brazil advanced to their first Copa America semi-final since 2007.
Progression means the Brazilian – alongside fellow Red Roberto Firmino – will compete in a second major final in just over a month.
Despite being recognised as a high-class keeper before his arrival on Merseyside, Alisson’s rise this season has been meteoric. Nine straight clean sheets leaves Liverpool’s number one on the verge of joining the history books.
After shutting out Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates, the keeper’ has now gone 846 minutes without being beaten between the sticks.
On the back of three clean sheets to end a magnificent campaign at Anfield, he now sits on five clean sheets from five in the Copa America – a record which has already earned him the tournament’s ‘Golden Glove’ award with the final yet to be played.
Even more impressively, it means the 26-year-old becomes the first player to hold this accolade in three major competitions all at once, the Premier League, the Champions League (joint with Marc-Andre ter Stegen), and lastly the Copa America.
A 10th clean sheet in a row in the final would surely earn him a major trophy at international level and heighten the whispers of a place in the Ballon d’Or shortlist even further.
But just what has been the secret to his success?
Virgil a defining factor?
The name on most fans’ lips to eclipse Lionel Messi’s reign of supremacy this season is Virgil van Dijk. The centre-back has truly cemented himself as the best defender in world football right now, and the signings of he and Alisson together have totally transformed Liverpool’s defence into a regimented unit.
A leaky defence at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal 18 months ago meant action was taken – the £70million signing of van Dijk a decision which was regarded as rash by rival fans.
The Dutchman helped shore up the defence, though he was helpless in the Champions League final, with his prowess failing to cover over the cracks in the goalkeeper position.
Liverpool’s success of reaching the final last year – at the expense of Alisson and Roma – would come to no avail as a night to forget for Loris Karius paved the way for the signing of the Brazilian stopper. The hype has been largely placed around van Dijk this season, but Alisson has been a star performer in the run-in.
On the verge of six clean sheets in a row with Brazil, Alisson on his own is arguably the best around right now, while together the pair form an unbreakable wall at the back of a somewhat formidable Liverpool team at times.
‘A season of few lows and many highs’
I think it’s fair to say that Alisson was quietly confident from the off – though maybe a touch too confident at times. He impressed the Anfield faithful early on, though lapses in concentration would define some of the criticism that would come his way.
Glimpses of over-exuberance on the ball were first seen away at Leicester in September, as the Brazilian would be dispossessed while trying to pull off an Adam Lallana-style Cruyff Turn, only to be thwarted by Kelechi Iheanacho and punished by Rachid Ghezzal.
His credentials would be questioned in early December, as a comfortable Liverpool gifted Manchester United an equaliser at Anfield – Jesse Lingard pouncing on a misjudged parry by the Reds’ No.13.
Over time these blips have been totally forgotten, especially as images of our hero biting his Champions League medal circulated the internet! But it was in December where he arguably made the triumph possible.
Even though the star has admitted the save was a bit lucky, a reflex block in the dying embers of the final European group stage game against Napoli from Arkadiusz Milik helped the Reds to sneak through to the knockout stages – and the rest, as they say, is history.
In all, 27 clean sheets for the season is a more than respectable tally given the goalkeeping blunders of recent years, and there’s certainly more to come from the lad.