Liverpool came into the match safely in the top four, in the thick of three cup competitions and barely in the chase for the Premier League title. The nine point gap with a game in hand wasn’t insurmountable in any normal circumstance, but Manchester City is no normal opponent.
Klopp’s selection reflected that reality as he put out a heavily rotated team that looked more like a Carabao Cup side than one that the manager would put out in a serious title chase. The two full-backs and the critical midfield pair of Thiago and Fabinho were out while Jota and Bobby were missing with injuries.
Norwich isn’t the most fearsome opponent but this kind of rotation often comes back to bite top-six sides against relegation fodder in the Premier League, but LFC rightly had their priorities elsewhere. And as the match played out Liverpool dominated early action but could not put the ball in the net and it looked like this fixture had the potential to be “one of those days.”
Then after the obvious deflected goal from Rashica (48’) via a Matip boot, Liverpool said, screw that whole narrative thing…
Cue Thiago and Origi. The PA man really missed a trick by not playing Metallica’s Enter Sandman as they strode onto the pitch.
Liverpool switched to a 4-4-2, 4-2-4 in attack and The Reds exploded. Thiago’s presence in itself was massive, but it also pushed Henderson out of the center and the midfield pair started hitting daggers out to the front four with ease. I think what we’ve discovered since Henderson’s return is that if he takes up a deep position and we’re dominating the ball we can take advantage of his strengths while masking his obvious weakness, namely tracking runners for any significant distance.
Just two minutes after the change Henderson raked a pass out to Tsimikas who lofted a header into the center of the box and Sadio wound up for a bicycle kick which has been disastrous in the past, but this time he struck it cleanly down and past Gunn to level it up.
A sleepy Anfield rose from their Saturday afternoon slumber and propelled the team from there. Liverpool again got to work right away with a spectacular ball from their creative Brazilian, Alisson Becker. The sweeper keeper slash #10 fired a ball 60 yards while slipping that fell right into the path of a sprinting Mo Salah who went into god mode, taking the ball down and flitting back and forth, hypnotising every Canary on the pitch, in the stands, in the coal mine… they all fell over and watched helplessly as the Egyptian rolled the ball into left side of the net. McLean had smartly retreated to take the place of an absent Gunn, and despite being 20 yards away from Mo’s juke-fest, fell over facing the wrong way as the ball dribbled in behind him.
Some other spectacular skills by Mo and Diaz left more yellow kits on their backs but didn’t find the goal. Then on 81’ Lucho put an end to things with a very strikerish run through the middle which drew a gorgeous pass from a deep-lying Henderson and a simple chip gave Diaz his first goal as a Red.
As fun as that second half was, the most meaningful action of the day for Liverpool may have come after the whistle as Manchester City briefly grabbed a point and then lost it in extra time against Spurs.
The result leaves Liverpool in control of their own destiny; meaning that if The Reds win out and score at the same rate as City from here on out, the league is ours. What a difference a few hours makes.
Of course assuming a result at The Etihad on April 9th is a dangerous game, but the point is it’s in our hands and our hands look pretty capable at the minute.