Miracles do happen.
Of all the people who deserved this moment, it was Alisson Becker. The year the man has gone through with his family, this moment was just beautiful to behold. He had made several crucial saves throughout the second half to keep the side in the contest, then in the final moment leapt like a salmon to meet cross and score a season defining goal.
The celebration said everything. The fact the goalkeeper had scored was madness in itself, but for it to be a winning goal and a goal that kept Liverpool’s season alive made everything seem that much more emotional. The only thing that was missing was a crowd and that just would have made the moment even more special.
As you can tell by the tone I have taken, I am still on cloud nine. This moment is exactly what this side needed. If this doesn’t give them the strength and belief to get these final two wins, then nothing will. The impetus this should give them is so psychologically powerful, that there is real belief that a goal that seemed so far away six weeks ago, is now within touching distance.
The team should not look past the final two hurdles ahead of them. Wednesday’s game away at Burnley is going to be especially tough. Despite the Clarets 4-0 defeat against Leeds on Saturday, this is a completely different game. They will be looking to respond to that result, whilst fans will be back at Turf Moor with 3,500 supporters expected on the evening.
Despite the heightened emotions and all the positivity around his side currently, Klopp will look to re-focus his team immediately. A slip up against Burnley will see all the good things that have happened over the past week, become redundant in the space of 90 minutes. Revenge will be firmly on his mind after the 1-0 defeat at Anfield earlier in the season, and he will be looking for a more complete performance in midweek.
Returning to the events at the Hawthorns, Klopp’s side started in a very poor way. Wasting possession, unable to hold the ball up and struggling to get too West Brom’s final third. Whereas the Baggies – on the back of being relegated last week – started brilliantly and pushed Liverpool into these shortcomings in the opening 20 minutes.
This deservedly resulted in a goal for the home side as Hal Robson-Kanu was put clean through on goal by Matheus Pereira, and he clinically slotted home beyond the dive of Alisson. Like it midweek, the goal seemed to wake the Reds up and from this moment saw Liverpool – and in particular Thiago – take control of proceedings.
As the Spaniard started to dictate play, opportunities started to present themselves. Sadio Mané and Firmino had chances to level but both failed to hit the target. Then – when it seemed that the pressure Liverpool had built was about to die down – the ball fell to the feet of Salah at the edge of the West Brom box. What came next was wonderfully instinctive, as he deliciously curled the ball into the bottom left corner to level the contest.
With the Baggies rear guard finally pierced, chances regularly presented themselves for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, every time a chance presented itself, the Liverpool player would apply the finishing touch. Alexander-Arnold, Wijnaldum, Salah, Mané and Firmino all missed the target – some multiple times – as precious minutes ticked by.
With seconds remaining, I think it is fair to say many Liverpool fans and even Klopp, had settled with the fact that this was ending a draw, and with-it Liverpool’s last remaining chance of Champions League football next season. However, Alisson Becker had other ideas.
With the knowledge of what a goal would mean for the Reds season, John Achterberg told the Brazilian to make his way up the pitch to see if he could influence a positive result and oh my goodness he did in the most dramatic way. As the corner was swung in, Alisson positioned himself near the front post and leapt wonderfully. With shades of Steven Gerrard against AC Milan in Istanbul, he connected perfectly and glanced the ball into the top right corner.
The outpouring of emotion began with players jumping all over the shot stopper/goal scorer, whilst the entire bench emptied onto the edge of the pitch with ecstatic delight. The tears started to flow and as the final whistle was blown the entire team made their way to their goalkeeper to thank him for his season saving contribution.
The former AS Roma player has had, at some point in every campaign, had a season defining moment for Liverpool. In 2018/2019, his save against Napoli to deny Milik in the Champions League that would eventually result in the European crown. In 2019/2020, his save to halt Teemu Pukki from rounding him at Carrow Road in a crucial Premier League encounter, in a season that would end with the Premier League title. This goal goes up with, if not betters, them.
With a week remaining of the Premier League season, the top four is within there grasp. If successful, it would be a monumental achievement in its own right considering all of the injuries and misfortune throughout the campaign. Let’s hope that the team can finish the job.
Klopp made two changes from the side that defeated Manchester United 4-2 on Thursday. Diogo Jota has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a foot injury, so Sadio Mané came in for the Portuguese, whilst Wijnaldum dropped to the bench with Curtis Jones stepping into centre midfield.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
AlissonEmbed from Getty Images
What more is there to say about this man?
He continues to pull things out of his magic hat and I am at the point where I firmly believe that he can do everything. I continually call him the best goalkeeper in the world and since joining Liverpool, the portfolio of evidence to support this is vast and thorough. However, this season defining act has catapulted him to a position where no goalkeeper – as far as I am concerned – can touch him.
Throughout the game he generally had very little to do. Despite conceding the early goal, it was not until the 60th minute where he was called into action again. He performed to the highest level once again when called upon, as he denied Hal Robson-Kanu from close range twice, when others would have struggled to maintain focus.
Then in stoppage time, Liverpool needing a goal to save the season, the 28-year-old guided the ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner, past the blue and white shirts on the line and into the net to start a frenzy amongst the away team.
As I touched upon earlier in the piece, this could not have happened to a nicer person on that pitch today. Considering the personal circumstances surrounding him throughout the season, mixed with the drop in form from the entire Liverpool team, it clearly meant a lot to him as the final whistle blew.
He has kept the Champions League dream alive for next season and also written himself further into Anfield history. Now if he grasps this positive energy for the final two games of the season, I have no doubt that the Reds will have a very good chance of reaching their end of season target.
Thiago AlcântaraEmbed from Getty Images
The best player on the pitch by some margin. Oozed class once again and was the catalyst to everything good until Alisson Becker took over in the final moments. Since Fabinho has moved back into midfield, he has looked back to the world class athlete that has graced the Barcelona and Bayern Munich midfields for years. He looks unstoppable.
Sam Allardyce will have clearly had a plan to nullify the Spanish internationals overall effect on the game, but whoever was tasked in doing this job, failed miserably as he ran the show. Even when the Reds where messy in the first 20 minutes, he looked calm and composed, giving his teammates the best possible chance to kickstart there own games when receiving the ball off him.
With his confidence building, his runs from midfield have started to return and we saw a few more from him in this game. In particular in the first half, when he along with Fabinho and Salah, connected wonderfully a couple of times before he found himself picking out a forward in the box. Each time unfortunately, neither move came away with the goal they deserved.
In the second half he was relentless, piling the pressure on and applying the squeeze to West Brom, as they dropped deeper and deeper. Even when they tried to break out from the back, he would halt the move with a swift crunching tackle to get Liverpool on the front foot again.
We are now seeing the best Thiago and this is within a makeshift team essentially around him. Once all the big guns return to a settled starting line-up, then Thiago is going to cause havoc amongst Premier League teams, and I for one am extremely excited to see it unfold.
Xherdan ShaqiriEmbed from Getty Images
This could be one of – if not his last – game in a Liverpool shirt.
The Swiss international has struggled for minutes during the campaign through a mixture of reasons, but today he was given the vote of confidence by his manager to go on and make a telling difference. Instead, he hindered his team in so waves of possession and looked completely void of any confidence.
With Liverpool clearly needing a goal, the former Bayern Munich man was thrown on to break through the tight Baggies defence and offer an alternative to Thiago. His first contribution was to lose possession and then his second was to over hit his pass out for a throwing. From there he only made the simple obvious passes and didn’t take on any risky decisions for the remainder of the contest. If this didn’t scream lack of self-confidence then I don’t know what does.
He is a very special player who has had a tough time since arriving on Merseyside from Stoke. He has added several medals to his accolade cabinet but this has come at a cost, where he has seen his game time limited through injuries and Klopp preferring other options.
With the campaign coming to a close, it is likely that the midfielder will be looking for more game time after the Euro’s. He nearly left at the end of last season and during January, but this upcoming transfer window will likely finally see him take his talents elsewhere in Europe and I for one will be sad when he does leave Anfield.
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