Premier League champions: The defining moments that ended Liverpool’s 30 years of hurt

It was a matter of when not if. Liverpool Football Club were officially crowned Premier League champions last week, 30 years since their last title.

The eventual destiny of this season’s league title was apparent long before the season was put on hold, as Jürgen Klopp’s side hit the front early in the title race and simply refused to let go of their significant advantage.

It has been a success as dominant as there ever has been in English football’s top-flight, with the Reds even gaining ‘Invincibles’ comparisons until Watford slightly halted the seemingly unstoppable runaway Liverpool train.

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Liverpool still have the potential to break Manchester City’s Premier League record of 100 points in a season, but in reality, I think Reds fans are happy with the long-awaited Premier League trophy.

Over the past year, there have been some defining moments that shaped Liverpool’s eventual triumph, so let’s see how influential they were.

‘We will go again’

The resonance of Klopp’s vow, issued after Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Wolves on the final day of the 2018/19 season, would become evermore influential as the Reds continued where they had left off from the previous season.

Somehow, 97 points, a sum countless titles have been won with, was only enough to finish second behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side. Over the course of the season, Klopp and Guardiola continued their rivalry that started in Germany, but it was the Spaniard who emerged victorious once more, by one solitary point.

Every Liverpool fan will remember that short two-minute injection of belief, the moment that Glenn Murray headed Brighton into the lead, coupled with Sadio Mané’s early goal at Anfield. However, the joy was short lived, starting a fire inside Klopp’s belly.

Although he was congratulatory to Guardiola, Klopp pledged that the Reds would strive to ensure their unyielding challenge was no one-off. To say that Klopp delivered on his promise would be a huge understatement. Liverpool, it would turn out, were more than ready to go one step further the season after.

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The downfall of Guardiola’s empire

A ground that has seen some classics between Liverpool and Norwich, Carrow Road was the venue that would see the cracks in City’s once irresistible team become evident for the league to see.

The departure of Vincent Kompany in the summer and Guardiola’s failure to sign a replacement, coupled with the long-term injury sustained by Aymeric Laporte, the Canaries grasped the opportunity with both hands and pounced upon some woeful defending to compound City to their first defeat in 18 league games.

After going two goals up in the first half an hour, a comeback seemed inevitable when Sergio Agüero reduced the deficit just before the half-time whistle. However, after scoring his maiden Premier League goal at Anfield on the opening day, Teemu Pukki took advantage of some more questionable defending to restore their two-goal cushion.

The remaining 40 minutes was spent hoping that Norwich could hold on, and with a late Rodri strike jangling the nerves once more, it proved only to be a consolation as Norwich took all three points. At this early point in the season, Liverpool, who had beaten Newcastle 3-1 earlier in the day, had a five-point lead at the summit of the table after five games.

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Milner keeps the Ribena on ice

Against Liverpool’s most noticeable challengers, Leicester City felt the impact of VAR when they visited Anfield after Marc Albrighton fouled Sadio Mané in the area, deep into added time. On an unbeaten run of seven games, this was the closest that the Reds had come to dropping points this season, but once again Anfield drama provided a twist in the tale.

Up stepped Mr Reliable. Mr Consistency. During the commotion that VAR had produced, James Milner had plenty of time to ponder, and ample time in which to do so. Chris Kavanagh eventually pointed to the spot after consultation with the technology, much to the disliking of Leicester City and the returning Brendan Rodgers.

However, the decision was final, and Milner had the chance to ensure Liverpool would win their eight successive league game in a row. As tempers continued to flare, Liverpool’s No.7 was eventually given the green light to face up to Kasper Schmeichel.

Milner duly obliged and slotted the ball beyond the Leicester ‘keeper. It was a significant win against one of the league’s toughest opponents, though you couldn’t tell by the Englishman’s celebration – a cross of the arms and a stern look on his face. Milner and Liverpool seemed to have all the answers no matter what was thrown their way.

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Liverpool leave it late

Briefly, Liverpool’s destiny was taken out of their own hands. Their unbeaten run was almost certain to end to the unlikely opponents of Aston Villa.

The old adage goes that good sides find a way to win, even when they play badly. And Liverpool continued to find a way to win. They had done it numerous times across the campaign, yet this seemed like their most significant comeback. By the 87th minute, it seemed to be a bad day at the office for Klopp and co who had seen a Roberto Firmino goal chalked off after an intervention from VAR.

And with Manchester City performing a similar comeback against Southampton on the same day, last year’s champions were breathing down Liverpool’s neck – three points was the gap. Despite the odds being stacked against them, and with the clock ticking over, Andy Robertson powered Liverpool back level after a bullet header.

A point seemed a fair result, however the travelling Reds emotions turned from despair to delirium, as Sadio Mané tilted the title closer to Merseyside. It is a result that many have cited as a key victory in their quest for the title, and the importance of the win in the West Midlands.

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Sweet revenge

This game had been earmarked as one for the ages. Manchester City and Liverpool had been at each other for the past two seasons, but this one was personal. After last seasons Premier League triumph, last season’s top two would lock horns once more in what would be a significant game in regard to the title race.

The prize for Liverpool, a potential nine-point gap could be opened up. For City, the chance to move closer to the leaders and return to their recently acquired perch.

The game was not without its controversy, as Trent Alexander-Arnold was the centre of attention, judged to have only accidentally handled the ball after a ricochet in the penalty area. The following counter-attack resulted in Fabinho firing Liverpool into the lead, much to Guardiola’s dismay.

His fury continued to grow as further goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané all but confirmed Liverpool would remain at the top of the table, whilst City remained in fourth. Not only was a nine-point gap opened up, Liverpool fans also enjoyed the Spaniard’s touchline meltdown, after an alleged second handball which Michael Oliver failed to spot.

I think we know which one…

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Boxing Day knockout

Having arrived off the back of two exhausting Club World Cup matches in Qatar, one of the last opponents you would like to have played would be Leicester. The Foxes had posed the biggest threat to Liverpool’s unbeaten run, so the Reds knew they were in for a tough afternoon – or so they thought.

This was the game that defined Liverpool’s unbelievable start to the season and further cemented their credentials to be considered amongst the elite Premier League sides. This was the day Liverpool delivered the performance of European, world and eventual Premier League champions.

In previous years Liverpool have been guilty of letting things slip when their fate is within their hands, but there was no way that was going to happen this year. Liverpool’s display was emphatic, authoritative and quite simply irresistible – 90 minutes of sustained superiority extended their lead at the top to 13 points, underlying that they were currently the best team in the country.

In a consummate display, Trent Alexander-Arnold showed such maturity and creativity, playing an integral role in Liverpool’s first three goals. Seemingly not content with his three assists, he later charged forward and smashed the ball low and hard into the corner for the fourth.

Even the most pessimistic of supporters started believing.

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‘We’re gonna win the league’

A song which has graced the terraces before. Many were reluctant to belt this one out before it was mathematically possible to do so, but a win against fierce rivals resulted in a chorus of chants about that elusive Premier League title. Anfield was rocking, imagining the glory to come. It was mid-January and people were convinced it was over already.  

Virgil van Dijk had headed Liverpool in front, but United continued to put pressure on the soon-to-be champions, frustrating Liverpool in the process. Anthony Martial had the Liverpool supporters’ hearts in their mouth as he was sent through on goal, but his wild effort sparked a huge sigh of relief amongst Liverpool supporters and brought anger to many United fans, not least to Gary Neville.

At the time it seemed like the title was a matter of weeks away, but after an unforeseen pandemic, Liverpool finally reached their end goal.

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Behind closed doors – business as usual

After months of uncertainty, the season resumed with Liverpool drawing their first game 0-0 away at Everton. Upon their return to Anfield the Reds faced a resurgent Crystal Palace, holding the longest unbeaten run in the league and hunting for European places.

The first behind-closed-doors match at Anfield should be something that other teams need to note in order to succeed. The Reds’ home has become a fortress and the fans play a big part in dictating the pace of the game and creating an atmosphere.

But Liverpool proved here that they can do the job even in their absence. Crystal Palace were simply overwhelmed, overpowered and outclassed by the champions-elect. It was a performance filled with skill, physicality and intensity – Roy Hodgson’s side simply couldn’t cope with Klopp’s machine.

It turned out to be the three points needed to secure their first Premier League title in 30 years, albeit with the help of Willian and Chelsea the following evening. The Blues beat Manchester City 24 hours later, and Liverpool were Premier League champions once again.

What a season. What a team.

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