Jurgen Klopp and his players may not be ready to admit the script has finished yet, but those of the Red persuasion are waiting with bated breath for what’s to come. Stopping them now would appear almost impossible.
“For us as players it’s about the next game, the next challenge”.
Jordan Henderson’s comments to Sky Sports after the final whistle are testament to the attitude and mentality that has seen Liverpool take 64 points from a possible 66.
No matter the narrative surrounding them, nor the murmurs that the league is done, the Reds refuse to be drawn into title talk, instead remaining supremely focused on the next game, and the next game alone.
With the final whistle ringing around Anfield, Liverpool made their latest statement on a journey that shows no signs of stopping. A 2-0 win over Manchester United means their lead at the Premier League summit now stretches to 16 points after 22 games.
Indeed, this was the day the Kop’s chorus changed from ‘Liverpool, top of the league’ to ‘We’re gonna win the league!’
Seldom has the title destination appeared so clear in January, but as the Red juggernaut roles on, flexing its impenetrable armour while others continue to falter, it now feels like a matter of when, not if, their wait for the league title ends.
Gulf between Liverpool and United clear as Reds take another step closer
A battle between the two most successful teams in England, the gap between United and Liverpool has never been so stark, now spanning 30 points following Virgil van Dijk’s towering header and Mohamed Salah’s late breakaway strike.
The Dutchman, who was impenetrable once more at the heart of the defence, towered above Harry Maguire to steer his header home from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner after persistent play from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down the right-hand side to give Liverpool the lead after a shaky start.
From there, the league leaders began to get into their groove, moving the ball with aplomb to carve open the United defence in a high-octane, relentless first half-hour. Indeed, it looked as though they had doubled their advantage when Roberto Firmino curled home his first goal of the season at Anfield.
A run of form some rival fans have pegged down to the introduction of VAR, Klopp’s side fell on the wrong side of technology here, just as they had done in the reverse fixture after a late challenge on Divock Origi wasn’t given.
Here, Paul Tierney adjudged Van Dijk to have fouled David De Gea in the build-up, ruling the referee’s initial decision to let play unfold as a ‘clear and obvious error’.
The fact Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Martin Tyler all disagreed tells the tale in itself.
Frustrated that their dominance wasn’t reflected on the scoreline, Liverpool kept pushing in search of a crucial second, with Georginio Wijnaldum next to see a goal ruled out after rounding off a perfect team move. Stemming from Chamberlain’s intricate through ball, the Dutchman’s effort was correctly ruled out for offside, meaning there was no repeat of VAR’s controversial offside tales.
Liverpool would create a multitude of chances from thereon in, threatening to dismantle United at will with seven shots on goal inside the first nine minutes of the second half as Salah spurned a golden chance before Jordan Henderson saw his shot cannon off the woodwork.
Alisson winds the clock back as Salah ends United duck
Akin to their gritty win against Spurs, while the seventy minutes prior were as dominant as they come, the last twenty minutes was about determination and fight, seeing out the latest obstacle on their unrelenting quest for glory.
It’s testament to Liverpool’s character and the belief in this group that few doubted they’d get themselves over the line, even when Anthony Martial wasted a glorious chance to make it 1-1.
As United huffed and puffed, the Reds remained calm, eventually putting the game to bed in emphatic style in added time.
It’s almost as though they were waiting for their perfect moment, leaving fans to sweat before delivering the goods in the most dramatic of ways.
There was an aura of familiarity to the celebrations as Alisson raced down the length of the Anfield turf to embrace Salah, who coolly slotted past De Gea to wrap up the three points and end his personal duck against United.
The Brazilian admitted after the match he had watched a video of Pepe Reina’s historic celebration in 2009, where he greeted David Ngog after his goal against the same opposition.
Instigating the move with deadly precision at one end, he was the first to celebrate with Salah in front of the Kop, a sight few will be quick to forget as the astounding tale of Liverpool’s season continues to play out.
Liverpool’s name appears destined to be etched on the Premier League trophy come May.
One step closer.