Jurgen Klopp’s side looked as though they’d handed the initiative back to Manchester City in the title race before an incredible last-gasp turnaround
On such days are titles won.
The clock showed 87 minutes, and Liverpool were in trouble. They were 1-0 down at Aston Villa, and had just heard the news from the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City had come from behind to lead Southampton 2-1. The Reds’ advantage was about to be cut to just three points, with City able to go top by winning at Anfield next weekend.
It hadn’t been Liverpool’s day. They trailed to Trezeguet’s first-half strike and, despite laying siege to the Villa goal in the second period, had been unable to muster anything in reply.
And then it happened.
Sadio Mane, frustrated and booked but never hiding, collected the ball coming in from the right. He clipped a diagonal ball to the far post, where Andy Robertson was arriving to head home. The Scot’s second league goal for the club could not have been better timed.
Instinctively, Liverpool’s players grabbed the ball from the net and returned to the halfway line. They couldn’t, could they?
In the third minute of stoppage time, the Villa wall deflected a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick behind for a corner. The home fans breathed. They’d survived.
From the corner, Alexander-Arnold’s near-post delivery was met by the head of Mane, the ball diverted into the far corner of the net.
“The best possible in football,” said Klopp when asked about his emotions afterwards. He looked tired. No wonder.
How does this team keep doing it? How does it keep finding its reserves of energy, courage and belief? They were three minutes from defeat, but never willing to accept iit.
For the third league game in a row, they came from behind to grab points. These were precious ones, keeping them six clear of City at the top of the table. What must Pep Guardiola and his team think of their rivals? Every time they look dead and buried, they reach a hand out from the grave. What a team.
They had been awful at times here, especially in the first half. “We made it hard for ourselves,” said Klopp.
Their offside trap had malfunctioned allowing Trezeguet to score after a John McGinn free-kick after 21 minutes. Mohamed Salah struggled, Mane was cautioned for diving in the penalty area, Roberto Firmino had an equaliser controversially chalked off for offside. His armpit, apparently.
The midfield, minus Fabinho, looked lightweight and lacking invention. Adam Lallana tried but he just isn’t the Brazilian. Jordan Henderson was off it, Gini Wijnaldum invisible. “I didnt like the body language in the first half,” Klopp said. “We didn’t look like warriors, we looked like…players.”
Still they kept going. They always do. They tried their luck but Villa defended stoutly. Tyrone Mings was outstanding, Wesley ran his heart out. They will feel they deserved something. They got nothing. Robertson and Mane broke their hearts.
The celebrations in the away end continued long after the final whistle. The smiles were as wide as the M6. The heart-rates were through the roof.
It’s a stressful business, supporting a football club, but when that club is Liverpool the rewards can be exhilarating. Time and again, Klopp’s team deliver for their fans.
Can they deliver the title? Can they keep doing this? Can they?
Hate to break it to you, but it looks like they can. They should have lost today, and they won. This was the kind of victory Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United used to dig out in the 1990s.
On such days are titles won. It’s Manchester City next up. Who knows what kind of drama awaits next weekend, but it’ll do well to top this…