Article by Matthew Purchase – Twitter – @kopitesaint91 – Instagram – @purchase5lfc
Following a cruel Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid, Liverpool continued their progress under Jurgen Klopp and contested one of the closest Premier League title races in years as points totals tumbled by the waste side and a renewed focus on avenging that defeat in Kiev as they booked another Champions League final place.
Following the defeat in the final, Jurgen Klopp made little amendments to the playing squad as opposed to wholesale changes and in addition to the already confirmed Naby Keita, Liverpool announced the signing of Fabinho from Monaco shortly after that loss. Liverpool would only make 2 further outfield additions, both of which occurred after pre-season began with Xherdan Shaqiri signing from Stoke on July 13th and a week later Danny Ward left to join Leicester on the same day Liverpool announced Alisson Becker has been signed from Roma, for what was a record signing for a goalkeeper, but Chelsea soon broke that again to bring in Kepa.
Liverpool exits as well as Ward saw Ragnar Klavan join Cagliari and Danny Ings joining Southampton, albeit initially on a season long loan deal. Emre Can joined Juventus following the expiry of his Liverpool contract. Loris Karius left Liverpool on a 2-year loan deal to Besiktas. In January, Dominic Solanke and Lazar Markovic made permanent moves to Bournemouth and Fulham respectively whilst Nathaniel Clyne switched on loan to Bournemouth.
Liverpool had 9 friendlies and the first glimpses of Naby Keita and Fabinho in a red shirt came at the Swansway Stadium where Liverpool thrashed Chester 7-0 with most of England more focused on a World Cup game. A 3-2 win at Tranmere, a 0-0 draw at Bury and a 2-0 win at Blackburn, including a rare Lazar Markovic goal, completed the domestic friendlies before heading to the United States for a tour where a rumoured Liverpool target Christian Pulisic, who would go on to join Chelsea on a pre-contract deal, scored twice despite Virgil Van Dijk opening the scoring to seal a 3-1 win for Borussia Dortmund in Charlotte.
A return for Sadio Mane and Mo Salah reaped rewards as Leroy Sane’s opener for Manchester City was overturned by goals from Salah and a stoppage-time penalty from Mane which gave Liverpool a 2-1 win. The best of the pre-season goals was found in the final fixture in America as Xherdan Shaqiri introduced himself to Liverpool supporters with a stunning acrobatic finish to put the seal on a 4-1 victory against Manchester United.
Liverpool then faced Napoli in Ireland and thrashed them 5-0 including a goal from Alberto Moreno. The first Anfield friendly at Anfield in 4 years saw Torino visit Anfield although if media reports are to be believed, Borussia Mönchengladbach were supposed to be the visitors but their pursuit of Rhian Brewster ended that possibility. Liverpool finished their preparations with a 3-1 victory as Danny Ings made his final appearance in a Liverpool shirt before his transfer to Southampton was announced.
Liverpool kicked off their Premier League campaign at home to West Ham United, where Alisson and Naby Keita were named in the starting XI for their competitive debuts, whilst Xherdan Shaqiri made his from the bench in the 2nd half. Liverpool started the season with a clean sheet and a resounding 4-0 victory with Sadio Mane opening the scoring before Mo Salah doubled the advantage just before the break.
Mane grabbed his 2nd of the game before Daniel Sturridge made an immediate impact as a substitute, completing the scoring just 24 seconds after being introduced. The following day, Liverpool were notified that the away fixture against Spurs would no longer be the curtain raiser for the new White Hart Lane and would instead be moved to Wembley, due to ongoing stadium construction work which would rumble on through the majority of the season.
The first away game of the season saw Liverpool head to Selhurst Park where a 2nd successive clean sheet was secured with a 2-0 victory. After former red Mamadou Sakho had fouled Mo Salah, James Milner stepped up to give Liverpool a half-time lead from the spot and Sadio Mane added his 3rd goal in 4 Premier League appearances for Liverpool against Crystal Palace (he would make it 4 in 5 later in the season). Liverpool completed August with 3 victories and 3 clean sheets as a Mo Salah strike secured a 1-0 victory over Brighton and put him on 29 goals at Anfield in 29 appearances for Liverpool (21 in 21 in the league).
The following week saw Liverpool learn they would face Chelsea at Anfield in the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup just a few days before the league meeting at Stamford Bridge. Earlier on, Liverpool had found out they were facing Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade in the group stages of the Champions League as the beaten finalists began their attempt to reach another European Cup final.
Sadio Mane continued his fantastic start to the season with the opening goal against Leicester at the King Power stadium. Roberto Firmino doubled Liverpool’s advantage before half time with a header from a corner. Alisson failed to keep a clean sheet for the first time as a Liverpool goalkeeper when he was caught in possession by Ihenacho who found Ghezzal but Liverpool held on to head into the first international break of the season with a 100% record. The 4th win in a row being the first time since 1990/91 that Liverpool had won their opening 4 fixtures in the league.
Following the international break, Liverpool travelled to Wembley to face Tottenham aiming to banish the ghosts of that horrific 4-1 defeat almost a year earlier. Liverpool thought they had an opening goal only to be denied by the linesman raising his flag after Milner found Firmino who prodded the ball into the net but the intention of Sadio Mane saw the goal ruled out. Gini Wijnaldum scored a rare away goal for Liverpool, his 2nd for the club and 1st in the Premier League when his header went over the line and the goal was given by the goal line technology on the referee’s watch.
The Spurs defence went missing as Sadio Mane played the ball across the box and after a horrendous mix-up with defender and goalkeeper, Roberto Firmino ended up turning the ball home from little more than a yard. Erik Lamela did claim a consolation turning and firing home from a corner but Liverpool held on to record a victory. Roberto Firmino was caught in the eye by Vertonghen which drew some concern about his possible involvement in the midweek fixture against PSG.
Anfield was a mix of colour and noise for the visit of the French champions and it was about to witness a dramatic start to the road to Madrid. The team news saw Roberto Firmino on the bench following his weekend injury whilst there was a first appearance for Fabinho who started his first competitive match since signing for the club. Daniel Sturridge was the replacement for Firmino and he fired Liverpool in front on the half hour. Trent Alexander-Arnold sent a cross towards the area that eluded everybody and fell to Andy Robertson who delivered a perfect cross for Sturridge to head home. 5 minutes later, Gini Wijnaldum was fouled and James Milner stepped up to double the advantage. Despite a possibility of a penalty or offside the ball came to PSG right back Thomas Meunier who finished well to give PSG a route back into the game before the interval.
With just over 7 minutes remaining, Neymar ran through and slipped the ball for Kylian Mbappe to equalise but the drama was only just beginning. Roberto Firmino had been introduced for Sturridge and it was the Brazilian with the final say, delaying his shot creating more room and firing Liverpool back into the lead in stoppage time, sending Anfield into delirium and mocking his injury sustained a few days previously by covering the affected eye.
Liverpool were back at Anfield on the Saturday for a rare occasion, a 3pm kick off where Southampton were the visitors. Xherdan Shaqiri made his first start for the club having only previously made appearances from the bench and he had a big say in the match despite Jurgen Klopp replacing him at half time. Shaqiri received a pass from Mane and having worked his way into the box had an effort at goal that was akin to a pinball game, eventually crossing the line off Wesley Hoedt.
Joel Matip marked his first start of the season with a goal, heading home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s delivery. A break from Liverpool, almost saw Mo Salah scored a backheeled finish but his disappointment was hidden beneath his trademark smile. Shaqiri then stepped up for a free kick following a conversation with Salah and as the Swiss international saw his effort come back off the crossbar before Salah made it 3-0 and sealed the victory. That would prove to be the Reds final victory for 4 weeks as 2 draws and 2 defeats followed.
In the first of 2 meetings in the space of 4 days, Liverpool welcomed Chelsea to Anfield. Former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge was on hand to score a fantastic overhead kick to give Liverpool the lead after Caballero had saved well. Chelsea levelled after Mignolet spilled a Ross Barkley header from a free kick into the path of Emerson. Daniel Sturridge had an attempt to give Liverpool the lead but failed although a similar effort would go in on the Sunday. Substitute Eden Hazard cut in from the right and with no Liverpool player making an attempt to tackle him, moved past Moreno with ease and fired past Mignolet and secured Chelsea’s passage into the 4th round on a path that would ultimately lead them to defeat at Wembley.
Following their first defeat of the season, Liverpool resumed their league campaign with the intention of maintaining their 100% winning run but it was a late stunner from substitute Daniel Sturridge that saved an unbeaten start just minutes after coming on exceeding where he had failed earlier in the week from a similar position to cancel out Eden Hazard’s opener. The goal brought up Sturridge’s 50th Premier League goal for the club since his move in January 2013. It also meant Liverpool would welcome Manchester City a week later only trailing last year’s runaway champions on goal difference.
October began with another disappointing performance on the road in Europe and as the game looked to be heading towards a 0-0 draw, Napoli snatched victory as Callejon found Insigne to give the Italians all 3 points and take them top of the Group C table after 2 games played. Manchester City were the next visitors to Anfield and after the goalfest in January, media and fans were optimistic of a repeat especially with 18 goals from 4 meetings in 2017/18 but what they witnessed was a game that struggled to really match the expectation as a 0-0 draw proved to be the final score and keep Liverpool and City deadlocked after 8 games and heading into yet another international break.
It could have been worse for Liverpool when the referee awarded Manchester City a penalty with time running out but Riyad Mahrez managed to blaze his attempt from the spot over the bar. After the international break, Liverpool recorded their first victory in 5 games across all competitions and brought up their 200th Premier League away victory and 30th under Jurgen Klopp as Mo Salah’s 24th minute strike proved to be the difference at Huddersfield.
The goals would be flowing as the month ended with Liverpool scoring 4 in both of their final games of the month, both played at Anfield. First up, Red Star Belgrade at Anfield in the Champions League and Liverpool were expected to easily coast to victory. Andy Robertson found Roberto Firmino who used his footwork to create the opportunity and he fired Liverpool into the lead with just under 20 minutes played. Mo Salah was being denied until just before the half-time break when he fired home after Shaqiri had touched on Wijnaldum’s forward pass.
Early in the second half, the referee awarded Liverpool a penalty for a foul on Sadio Mane and Mo Salah smashed home from 12 yards to make it 3-0 and it could have been 4-0 but Alexander-Arnold couldn’t quite get the elevation when Fabinho found him with a lovely pass. Liverpool were awarded another penalty when the referee adjudged a Belgrade player to have handled but Sadio Mane was denied as the ‘keeper pushed the ball onto the bar and Mane failed to score from a rebound but just minutes later, Mane had his goal as Sturridge played him in and despite losing his balance, poked the ball beyond the goalkeeper to complete a 4-0 victory. Salah reached the landmark of 50 Liverpool goals in this match.
The weekend that followed saw Neil Warnock bring his Cardiff side to Anfield. Liverpool took the lead after 10 minutes, Salah backheeled to Alexander-Arnold who provided a cross but Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum were denied and fortunately Salah was on hand to follow up to open the scoring despite the best attempts of a Cardiff defender interpreting a goalkeeper on the line. Sadio Mane doubled the advantage as he managed to evade the attentions of the Cardiff defenders before putting the ball into the net. Whilst it looked like Liverpool were about to comfortably see out the game, Liverpool conceded their first league goal at Anfield since Michail Antonio in February, a total of 918 minutes, when Hoilett found Patterson to beat Alisson at his near post but whilst Liverpool in years gone by would sit back and try to see the game out and inevitably concede another goal, they went forward again and secured all 3 points.
Salah found Shaqiri in the box and after selling the defender a dummy, registered his 1st goal for the club and in doing so became the 1st Swiss international to score a competitive goal for the club. The points were wrapped up when Mane found Salah and then continued his run, bursting ahead of the Egyptian and receiving the ball before calmly dinking it over the on-rushing Etheridge and seal the 4-1 victory.
With the announcement that VAR would be in the Premier League for the 2019/20 season, some sections of support at the Emirates would have been wishing for an earlier introduction during this game as Liverpool came away from the Emirates with a point although had it been in place, it may well have been all 3 as Liverpool maintained an unbeaten start to the Premier League season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold sent a ball into the area which both Firmino and Mane chased with the Brazilian lifting a goalbound effort only to see it come back off the post and be finished by Sadio, however the goal was ruled out for offside despite replays showing Mane behind the ball at the time of Firmino’s effort. A lovely ball from Salah was taken down on the chest by Virgil Van Dijk but he failed to beat Leno. Van Dijk then went close again as a Milner free kick was headed by the Dutchman but his effort hit the post after Leno had came miles off his line and never looked like claiming the ball.
Liverpool took the lead in the second half when Leno could only push Mane’s effort into the path of James Milner who made no mistake, thumping the ball home for his 50th Premier League goal (14 for Liverpool). Van Dijk then had another chance to score but his header was superbly tipped over by Leno and it would have dividends for his team as Arsenal grabbed a draw when Lacazette received the ball and turned away from Alisson and created the opportunity to fire the ball across the goal and claim the equaliser.
Another poor European away game in Belgrade followed with one of the upsets of the tournament as Red Star claimed a 2-0 win against a below-par Liverpool although Liverpool did return to winning ways ahead of another International disruption. After Fulham saw an effort disallowed for offside, Alisson quickly restarted play and found Alexander-Arnold who spotted the run of Salah and the Egyptian scored to give Liverpool the lead, a turnaround in around 14 seconds. The points were wrapped up early in the 2nd half when Robertson’s ball from the left was finished first time on the volley by Xherdan Shaqiri.
The return from the international disruption saw Liverpool travel to Vicarage Road to face Watford on the cusp of setting a new defensive record for the least number of goals conceded in their opening 13 league games with a clean sheet (5). Liverpool recorded the clean sheet as well as adding 3 second half goals. Mo Salah is becoming to Watford what Suarez was to Norwich as he opened the scoring for his 6th goal in 3 appearances finishing past Ben Foster from Mane’s assist. Liverpool’s 2nd was a beautiful strike as Trent Alexander-Arnold fired an unstoppable free-kick into the net leaving Foster no chance. Firmino finished the scoring, nodding in after Foster had pushed Mane’s effort into the air.
The month ended in Paris and for the 3rd time in the group stages, an away defeat followed. Kylian Mbappe attempted to find Edinson Cavani but Virgil Van Dijk read it and attempted a clearance which was intercepted by Juan Bernat who gave PSG the lead past a flat-footed Alisson. There was a possible red card for PSG but Veratti’s crunching tackle on Joe Gomez saw the referee only produce a yellow. It almost got worse for Liverpool on the half hour mark as Mbappe again looked for Cavani but Alisson vitally pushed the ball away to Robertson. The respite didn’t last long, Mbappe found Cavani but whilst Alisson denied the Uruguayan, Neymar was able to finish from the rebound. Liverpool then got a lifeline when Sadio Mane was fouled and Milner scored from the spot to give Liverpool hope before half time. In the second half, Marquinhos was denied a goal by the linesman and as the referee sounded his whistle, it was déjà vu for Liverpool as the result meant it was like Olympiakos 2004 all over again on the final matchday. Liverpool needed a 1-0 victory or a victory by 2 clear goals if Napoli were to score at Anfield.
The final month of 2018 brought 8 matches and 8 wins for Liverpool. The first of which was another dramatic derby day. Everton could have taken the lead when Bernard found Walcott who then found Gomes but Alisson denied him with a smart save and it almost trickled in but Joe Gomez was able to clear it off the line before Sigurdsson could force it over the line. Salah then sent Shaqiri through but he couldn’t find a way past Jordan Pickford. Divock Origi’s introduction would prove to be a turning point in the match as he somehow missed from a few yards after Van Dijk headed down Alexander-Arnold’s corner. Had the score remained as it was, that chance may have been replayed as the chance that could have won it but there was to be a final source of drama.
With time all but played, Alisson released a free-kick quickly to Alexander-Arnold, who delivered a cross into the Everton box but it was headed away and as Van Dijk attempted to volley it home, connected wrongly and the ball looped up in the air and came down onto the crossbar, bobbled across and Divock Origi ensured he had scored in all 3 of his Anfield league appearances against Everton as he was able to head home past Pickford to send Anfield into raptures and Jurgen Klopp racing onto the pitch to celebrate with Alisson. Liverpool learned their opponents for the FA Cup the following day, drawing Wolverhampton Wanderers away.
Next up for Liverpool was a midweek trip to Lancashire to face Burnley at Turf Moor where a save by Alisson late on would prove to be crucial. With awful weather to contend with Burnley thought they’d scored when Barnes volleyed home from a Brady free kick however the goal was disallowed. Burnley would take the lead though as Alisson failed to gather a ball and Jack Cork was able to give the home side a 1-0 advantage. James Milner restored parity firing hard and low into the bottom corner. Liverpool then took the lead 7 minutes later when Alexander-Arnold, who had came off the bench to replace the injured Joe Gomez, found Van Dijk from a free kick and he put it on a plate for fellow substitute Roberto Firmino to bundle the ball home from a couple of yards out, just a few moments after the Brazilian had been introduced.
Burnley could have taken the share of the spoils late on but Alisson made an inch perfect save in the top corner to deny them and it was he who would start the move moments later that would seal the victory. He released the ball to Sturridge with a long throw who in turn found Salah, with the Egyptian playing in Shaqiri to fire beyond Hart and seal a 3-1 victory.
James Milner made his 500th Premier League appearance for Liverpool, starting at right back as Liverpool travelled to the South Coast to face Bournemouth. Salah opened the scoring after Begovic saved well from Firmino. Alisson then showed his skills weren’t just with his hands as he came to thwart the danger with a header to prevent Josh King from scoring. Mo Salah then ran through and despite being clipped by Steve Cook evaded Nathan Ake to double his tally and extend the lead. It was 3-0 when Robertson fired a ball across the box and it hit Cook and went in. Salah then completed his hat-trick to wrap up a 4-0 victory beating Begovic with the ball twice before putting it into the net.
Napoli came to Anfield knowing that if they could score, Liverpool would need to find 3 goals however Mo Salah managed to squeeze the ball past former Arsenal goalkeeper David Opsina and there were no further goals to be added but Alisson ensured Liverpool would still be in the Champions League after Christmas when he superbly denied Milik in stoppage time at the end of the second half. Liverpool would follow this result up with their first home league victory over Manchester United in 5 years. Nathaniel Clyne made his only Premier League appearance of the season and played well despite his rustiness having struggled for game time since his injury and the emergence of Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool took the lead against Man United through Sadio Mane after a lovely ball from Fabinho. United levelled up when Alisson failed to catch Lukaku’s ball across and Jesse Lingard was on hand to equalise. Xherdan Shaqiri would prove to be a super sub as he scored a brace to hand all 3 points to Liverpool, his first goal came when a Mane ball deflected off the feet of both Matic and De Gea allowing the ball to break for the Swiss international to finish just moments after entering the match. He got his 2nd and Liverpool’s 3rd when Firmino tried to find Salah but it set up kindly for Shaqiri to strike at goal and with the aid of a deflection seal all 3 points.
The following day Liverpool were drawn to face Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League with the first leg to be played at Anfield in February. Liverpool’s final match before Christmas was a trip to Molineux and a victory that guaranteed Liverpool would be top of the table on Christmas Day as goals from Mo Salah and Virgil Van Dijk gave the Reds an away victory and another clean sheet for Alisson in a game where Jordan Henderson made his 300th appearance for the Reds.
Liverpool ran riot on Boxing Day, beating Newcastle 4-0. A short corner from Shaqiri saw Andy Robertson deliver but the defenders clearance fell kindly onto Dejan Lovren’s boot for a half-volley to open the scoring. Shaqiri then saw a free kick tipped away by Dubravka. Early in the second half Mo Salah was pulled back and the referee awarded a penalty that Salah converted. A well worked move saw Henderson play in Alexander-Arnold who squared for a simple tap-in for Shaqiri. Fabinho was the final scorer, notching his first Liverpool goal from a Salah corner.
December finished with another reds rout, this time Arsenal put to the sword by this ruthless Liverpool side. Arsenal did take the lead though as Iwobi found Maitland-Niles but within 5 minutes Liverpool were ahead thanks to 2 goals from Roberto Firmino. His first goal came after a Granit Xhaka tackle on Salah, saw the clearance from Lichtsteiner hit Mustafi, catching Leno out and allowing a simple no-look tap in for Liverpool’s number 9. Sadio Mane then intercepted an attempted Arsenal pass allowing the ball to break for Firmino who began running towards the goal and with a number of Arsenal players catching air with their attempted tackles, fired past Leno to delight the majority of those inside Anfield.
A piece of ingenuity from Robertson found Salah who was able to play the ball across for Mane at the first time of asking to allow Sadio to make it 3-1. Sokratis then fouled Salah and the Egyptian fired home for a 4-1 advantage at half time. The 5-1 scoreline and a Firmino hat-trick was completed at the Kop End in the 2nd half after Kolasinac was adjuged to have fouled Lovren and Salah this time, gave up the opportunity for another goal allowing Bobby to complete his hat-trick
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January started with what would transpire to be Liverpool’s only league defeat of the season at the Etihad stadium. It was to be one of those nights where decisions could be reviewed that may have altered the outcome. After Sadio Mane had hit the post, John Stones kicked the ball against his own keeper and as the ball looked to be heading over the line, the former Everton defender managed to get the ball away despite the attention of Mo Salah by the faintest of margins as the goal decision system (1.12cm).
Vincent Kompany then clattered into Mo Salah with some sections of social media calling for a red card for an out of control challenge although the referee adjudged it to be only a caution. Manchester City took the lead before half time when Aguero got in front of Lovren and fired past Alisson from a narrow angle. Liverpool equalised mid-way through the 2nd half when Alexander-Arnold delivered a ball for Robertson to knock across the box for Firmino to head home prompting an interesting celebration from Jurgen Klopp with a water bottle. Liverpool sadly fell to defeat when Leroy Sane scored firing in off the post. Ederson then produced a good save to deny Salah an equaliser but City reduced the gap at the top of the table to 4 points.
The curse of the FA Cup Ws remained as Liverpool travelled to Molineux for the FA Cup 3rd round match knowing Jurgen Klopp had been eliminated in the 4th round of his 3 previous campaigns by a side beginning with W (West Ham 2016, Wolves 2017, West Brom 2018) but this time he would fail to reach the 4th round for the first time in his tenure as a much-changed side suffered an early blow when Dejan Lovren went down with a hamstring injury, prompting Klopp to bring on 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever, who became Liverpool’s youngest ever player in an FA Cup game and the 3rd youngest overall. Wolves very much looked in control at Molineux looking the most likely to score and Raul Jimenez struck before half-time when Moreno passed to Milner who failed to get the ball under control and Diogo Jota seized upon the ball and released Jimenez who bore down on goal and fired past Mignolet to send the home fans into delight.
Liverpool started the 2nd half a little more brightly and equalised when Milner found Shaqiri who returned the ball to the skipper who saw his shot blocked into the path of Divock Origi who was able to drive home the equaliser. Ruben Neves though would win the game for Wolves with a long-range strike beating Simon Mignolet at his near post and take Wolves through, on their route to the semi-finals. Liverpool introduced Firmino and Salah but neither of them could affect the end result, although John Ruddy pulled off a fantastic save to tip a goal-bound Shaqiri free kick onto the post.
Mo Salah, Liverpool 1-0 Brighton.. the same scoreline as match-day 3 repeated itself on match-day 22 although this time it was the Egyptian scoring from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Gross. A goal-fest at Anfield followed as Crystal Palace visited. It would prove to be another 3 points for Liverpool. Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk had gone close for Liverpool before Zaha pulled the ball back for Andros Townsend to give the visitors the lead.
Liverpool equalised through a bit of fortune early in the second half as Van Dijk’s strike hit the defender and fell perfectly for Salah to put the ball past Speroni. Liverpool then took the lead with their 1,000th Premier League goal at Anfield. Keita finding Firmino to score and bring up the landmark. James Tomkins then headed Palace level. Another stroke of fortune allowed Liverpool to retake the lead as Fabinho found Milner brilliantly and as he tried to find Salah, Speroni punched the ball towards his own goal allowing Salah to claim the goal knocking the ball over the line. James Milner was then sent off for two fouls in quick succession against Zaha. Despite the numerical disadvantage Sadio Mane made it 4-2 in added time but Max Meyer struck a late consolation.
January finished with Liverpool dropping points at Anfield. Sadio Mane gave Liverpool the lead despite the attentions of a number of Leicester defenders. Another contentious point was the foul by Harry Maguire as Sadio Mane ran through towards a 1-on-1 with Kasper Schmeichel only being punished by a yellow card and Maguire would be involved again as he equalised before half time after Liverpool had failed to clear their box and Chilwell played in the England defender to score. He then could have claimed an assist but his header to Johnny Evans saw Alisson make a fantastic save to maintain Liverpool’s unbeaten record at Anfield. Liverpool thought they should have had a penalty when Naby Keita appeared to be fouled in the box but Martin Atkinson awarded a goal kick to the disbelief of the home players.
February began with another 1-1 draw although Liverpool were again the beneficiaries of fortune. Lallana found Milner (who replays showed was clearly offside) who was able to find Mane in the area who turned and fired the visitors in front but Liverpool’s fortune didn’t extend to a win as a well-worked free-kick saw Michail Antonio fire home an equaliser. Declan Rice missed a chance to hand the Hammers victory heading over without even troubling Alisson.
Liverpool returned to winning ways when Bournemouth visited Anfield. Liverpool took the lead when Sadio Mane headed home from Milner’s delivery from the right flank. Liverpool’s 2nd goal was a thing of beauty as Robertson found Wijnaldum who brought the ball under his control and lifted the ball over Boruc. Salah had an effort on the volley but Boruc was able to pull off a spectacular save. Liverpool completed the 3-0 scoreline when Naby Keita found Firmino who back-heeled a lovely assist to put Salah in to finish the scoring early in the 2nd half. Liverpool had chances for 4 but Mane and Salah both missed glorious opportunities.
Liverpool’s next 2 games would see no goals. The first leg of the Champions League last 16 game with Bayern Munich at Anfield saw Fabinho playing as makeshift centre back in the absence of Van Dijk, Lovren and Gomez. The following weekend, Liverpool drew 0-0 at Old Trafford with Manchester United in a game more memorable for the early raft of injuries including one which forced Roberto Firmino to play just half an hour.
The month would end with a fantastic victory over Watford as Liverpool won by a 5 goal margin at Anfield for the 3rd successive season against the Hornets. Sadio Mane’s first half double, both from Trent Alexander-Arnold assists combined of a header that gave Foster no chance before an outrageous backheel. In the 2nd half, Origi cut in from the left to fire Liverpool into a 3-0 lead. After Alisson denied Andre Grey with a great save, another brace followed to put the polish on the scoreline with Virgil Van Dijk at the double. Alexander-Arnold claimed a hat-trick of assists as his free-kick was headed home. Robertson then got in on the assists act as he delivered from the left for Van Dijk to make it 5-0.
March began with Liverpool’s final dropped points of the Premier League season in a stalemate with local rivals Everton at Goodison Park. Liverpool’s next game was a Sunday lunchtime kick off against Burnley knowing a win was essential having seen Manchester City take a 4 point lead at the Premier League summit the previous evening.
It got off to a disappointing start as Ashley Westwood was able to give Burnley the lead direct from a corner, even if the awarding of the set-piece was up for debate. Having just missed an effort, Firmino was soon on the scoresheet as Wijnaldum and Salah played a neat one-two before the ball across from the Egyptian managed to deceive Heaton and Tarkowski and allowed the Brazilian to level the scores.
Question marks were raised when the inclusion of Adam Lallana was announced but he showed the reason for that when he blocked an attempted clearance from Bardsley and as Salah was beaten to the ball, the miscued clearance fell kindly for Sadio Mane to curl in at the first time of asking to give Liverpool a 2-1 half time lead.
Tom Heaton then played a short pass which found Salah and despite the Egyptian being unable to score under the pressure from Ben Mee, the ball fell into the path of Firmino to ram it home. It should have been 4-1 when Alexander-Arnold played the ball into Sadio Mane who saw his effort manage to go over the crossbar. Johann Berg Gudmonddson scored at the end of the game to queue a few nerves but Daniel Sturridge managed to send Sadio Mane away who took it past Heaton before slotting into the unguarded net to complete a 4-2 victory.
Heading into the 2nd leg at the Allianz Arena at Munich, everywhere was focused on Liverpool’s recent record in European away matches, almost writing off Liverpool’s hopes having seen them lose all 3 of their group stage away games. Liverpool soon made them eat their words. Virgil Van Dijk launched a long ball to Sadio Mane who with his back to goal turned away from Manuel Neuer to give the visitors a vital away goal. Gnabry then saw his cross turned into his own net by Joel Matip but headers in the 2nd half from Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mane secured a famous 3-1 victory and later that week, Liverpool learnt that they would face Porto in the last 8.
The final match before another international disruption was away to Fulham at Craven Cottage as the Londoners edged closer to an immediate return to the Championship. Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the 1st half when he found Firmino before receiving the ball back and firing home. James Milner would end up having a massive impact of the final stages of the match after being introduced by Jurgen Klopp. A sliced clearance caused confusion between Van Dijk and Alisson and former red Ryan Babel equalised. Another slice of fortune got Liverpool their winner as Salah saw his shot saved but spilled by Sergio Rico who then hauled down Sadio Mane and the referee awarded a penalty. Milner stepped up and scored the winner.
Liverpool faced a one-time title race contender Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield as March ended with another victory. Andy Robertson’s delivery was headed home by Roberto Firmino. Harry Kane then saw Alisson save his effort and as Eriksen looked certain to equalise, Robertson made an important block. Spurs equalised when Henderson was adjuged to have fouled Kane who took a quick free kick with questions over whether the ball was rolling at the time of being played.
His delivery found Trippier who passed to Eriksen who played it across for Lucas Moura to finish. Spurs should have taken the lead when a counter attack saw Moussa Sissoko bearing down on goal with Son for support and only Van Dijk and Alisson between him and the goal but the attention of Virgil Van Dijk saw Sissoko shift from his right foot to his left and send the effort over the bar. Liverpool’s winner then came as Alexander-Arnold found Salah who saw his header pushed out by Lloris onto Aldeweireld and the ball rolled over the line for another vital 3 points for Liverpool’s title challenge.
The first match of April saw Liverpool complete another comeback win, this time at Southampton who took the lead through Shane Long. Naby Keita equalised from a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross with a header that Angus Gunn was unable to prevent going over the line. Liverpool took the lead through a blistering counter attack as Salah ran from his own half before applying the finish to end his own mini goal drought and bring up his 50th Premier League goal for Liverpool in his 69th appearance. Captain Jordan Henderson sealed the points and the 3-1 win when he came off the bench to net his first goal of the season after good work by Roberto Firmino.
Liverpool’s Champions League run continued with a 2-0 first leg victory over Porto at Anfield. Naby Keita gave Liverpool a very early advantage with a strike albeit with the aid of a deflection. Firmino found Henderson who played the ball for Alexander-Arnold who’s pin-point pass allowed Firmino to make it 2-0 with a tap in. Anfield would see VAR checks in progress as Alisson clawed a ball out and knocking it against Alexander-Arnold with VAR checking for a possible handball for a penalty. VAR was out again early in the 2nd half as Sadio Mane put the ball into the net for a 3rd goal but the linesman raised his flag and VAR was in agreement. As Xherdan Shaqiri prepared for his first appearance in a number of weeks, the referee blew his whistle to end the first leg and send Liverpool to Portugal with an advantage.
The Sunday that followed was centred around history. Liverpool v Chelsea in 2014 had seen Liverpool’s title hopes that year suffer a dent with the moment Steven Gerrard slipped used by almost every media outlet in the build up but this time there would only be delight for those inside Anfield. Sadio Mane gave Liverpool the lead after Salah and Firmino’s one-two saw the ball find Henderson who evaded the attentions of Jorginho before chipping the ball into a dangerous area which invited Mane to head home. Within 2 minutes, Anfield was roaring again as Salah scored a wonderful strike against his former team. Virgil Van Dijk sent a ball towards the right-hand touchline and Mo Salah cut inside and hit an unstoppable shot. There was a little flashback to that day when Robertson slipped which Klopp would joke about in his post-match conference.
On the road to Kiev, Liverpool travelled to Porto and came away with a 5-0 victory and nobody was expecting lightning to strike twice but there was 5 goals again, even though the split was 4-1 this time around. Sadio Mane scored the only goal of the first half sliding in from Mo Salah’s ball although the linesman raised his flag to rule it out, only to be overruled by the VAR review. Liverpool’s 2nd that killed off any slim hopes of Porto coming back came as Liverpool once again turned defence into attack, after Milner had sniffed out a Porto attack, Firmino close to his own area danced away from Porto defenders before finding Wijnaldum who released the ball to Alexander-Arnold who measured a pass for Salah who had the task of putting it past Iker Casillas and into the net. Porto did get their name on the scoresheet when Militao headed home from a corner. Firmino then headed home Henderson’s cross to restore a 2 goal advantage on the night. Van Dijk completed the scoring on the night heading home after Milner’s corner was flicked on by Mane.
Cardiff City edged closer back to the Championship themselves and it was aided by a 2-0 victory in South Wales. A corner was played low to Gini Wijnaldum who smashed the ball into the back of the net. The result was sealed when Morrison decided he wanted to hold Salah and the referee awarded a penalty which Milner made no mistake in dispatching. There was joy in the midweek as the U18s lifted the FA Youth Cup beating Manchester City on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
A five-star performance ended April and also saw some records in a game which saw the goalscoring opened in quick fire fashion. Naby Keita fired Liverpool ahead after just 15 seconds when his anticipation saw him intercept an attempted clearance and getting the ball back from Salah and finishing to give the home side a perfect start. Virgil Van Dijk headed over before being involved in the 2nd goal, a foray forward deep into the Huddersfield half saw him find Robertson who delivered for Mane to head home the 2nd.
Before half time Alexander-Arnold played a ball for Salah who lobbed the onrushing Lossl to make it 3-0 and register his 68th goal in his 100th Liverpool appearance. In the 2nd half Sadio Mane scored another header, this time from a ball from Henderson. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his return from his knee injury in this game and was close to marking it with a goal after Salah played him in and he turned a defender but his finish failed to beat Lossl. Mo Salah marked his century of Reds appearances by breaking the record for most goals in the first 100 appearances as he scored his 69th goal (eclipsing Roger Hunt and Sam Raybould on 68) finishing from close range after another Andy Robertson assist to complete a 5-0 scoreline.
May began with a European Cup semi-final, this time an away tie at Barcelona and despite creating a number of chances, a defeat to the Catalan side was painful. A 3-0 defeat on the balance of play was very harsh with former red Luis Suarez opening the scoring and when his effort came back off the bar, Lionel Messi tucked it home from close range before he won a free kick and curled it home to leave Liverpool needing a very special Anfield night if they were to reach another European Cup final, which came with the added cost of injuries for Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino. It could have been worse for Liverpool but as the away supporters awaited the whistle to end the match, Ousmane Dembele failed to convert a glorious opportunity for a 4-0 scoreline.
The absence of Firmino meant Daniel Sturridge was chosen to start ahead of Divock Origi at Newcastle with Liverpool knowing a win guaranteed the title race would go down to the final day. After Salah saw his effort fly off a defender, Alexander-Arnold delivered the corner for Virgil Van Dijk to head the visitors into the lead unchallenged. Newcastle grabbing the equaliser saved Alexander-Arnold from a red card. As Ritchie fired the ball across, Rondon hit a shot towards goal that Trent blocked on the line with his arm but Atsu was on hand to score the rebound. Liverpool retook the lead when Sturridge appeared to be running out of room, backheeled allowing Alexander-Arnold to deliver for Salah to volley home.
Newcastle equalised in the 2nd half after a corner was not fully cleared and as the ball was headed back into the box, Rondon thumped an unstoppable strike into the Liverpool net. Mo Salah suffered a concussion when he collided with Dubravka, in an injury that ruled him out of the Barcelona game in the following week. Liverpool though found a winner having won a free kick, Van Dijk instructed Shaqiri to take it instead of Alexander-Arnold and he delivered perfectly as Divock Origi got the slightest of touches from his hair to divert the ball into the net and claim another vital 3 points for Liverpool.
The greatest match in the history of Anfield? Quite possibly. Liverpool knew they could not afford to concede early but scoring early and anything was possible as they looked to overturn a 3-goal deficit to Barcelona. After Henderson saw his effort pushed back out, Divock Origi was on hand to justify his selection by giving Liverpool the lead. Liverpool though were unable to add anything else before the interval and were dealt another blow when Andy Robertson was forced off with an injury but his replacement Gini Wijnaldum had an impact within his 1st 10 minutes on the field. Alexander-Arnold won the ball back off Jordi Alba, it eluded Shaqiri and Mane left it to allow Gini Wijnaldum to score and give Liverpool supporters hope, even if Ter Stegen would feel he should have done better.
2 minutes passed and Xherdan Shaqiri lifted the ball into the box for Wijnaldum to head his 2nd and Liverpool’s 3rd to bring the clubs level on aggregate with just over half an hour of the game to play. Liverpool’s winner was a moment of genius from Alexander-Arnold. As Liverpool won a corner, Origi kicked a stray ball out of play and as Trent moved away from the corner, indicating he was handing responsibility to Shaqiri but before Barcelona could get themselves set, he ran back and took the corner quickly, straight to the waiting Divock Origi to send Anfield wild and as the final whistle went, Liverpool were celebrating reaching another European final under Jurgen Klopp, keeping up his impressive record of winning all of his 2-legged European ties in charge and making a final every season he’s had European football at Liverpool.
The players joined in a special rendition You’ll Never Walk Alone and there was another crazy game to follow 24 hours later where Ajax were 2-0 up (3-0 aggregate) and seemingly heading to face Liverpool in Madrid but Tottenham summoned the spirit and as the clock ticked to 95:00 in a match with 5 additional minutes, Spurs grabbed their 3rd goal and set up an all-English final with their crucial away goal.
With tickets advertised on certain sites for £6,000, it was quite clear that demand for Liverpool’s final Premier League match of the season against Wolves was unprecedented with the possibility of a first league title in 29 years even if it was out of Liverpool’s hands relying on Man City failing to win at Brighton. For a brief period the fans inside Anfield could dream that it may be about to become reality as Sadio Mane put Liverpool in front from 6 yards whilst the scoreline remained 0-0 at Brighton.
Things momentarily got better as Brighton took the lead before Man City equalised. Once Man City took the lead, it was becoming increasingly likely that despite a record breaking season with 97 points accumulated, the title would elude Liverpool. Sadio Mane scored his 2nd to join Mo Salah and Arsenal’s Aubameyang to seal a 2-0 win and a 3 way tie for the golden boot however the clean sheet gave Alisson Becker the golden gloves award ahead of City’s Ederson in his debut season.
Madrid was the location but with a distinctive Premier League flavour as Liverpool faced Tottenham Hotspur for a 3rd time this season in the biggest showpiece occasion of all. The Champions League final. Liverpool had reached this stage for a 2nd successive year and were keen to banish the ghosts of Kiev. Harry Kane and Roberto Firmino were both the talk of the media before kick off about their respective fitness levels and whether they would start. Both did but neither really had any impact on the match.
The game in truth wasn’t the goal laden spectacle many had predicted looking at the way both sides had reached the final. After just 30 seconds, Liverpool were awarded a penalty as Mane’s ball was stopped by the arm of Moussa Sissoko, up stepped Mo Salah to hammer Liverpool into a very early lead and despite Tottenham then enjoying a significant spell of possession and forcing Alisson into 8 saves, they failed to hit the back of the net.
Jurgen Klopp’s first change saw Divock Origi in place of Roberto Firmino and it was the Belgian who ended any faint Tottenham hopes when he struck the ball past Lloris to confirm Liverpool as 6 times Champions of Europe. Jordan Henderson, a man who has had his critics and the sole member of the Liverpool squad who had won a trophy during his time at the club before this final, lifted the trophy.
The following day, over 750,000 Liverpool supporters flooded the streets to give the team a welcome home with the trophy with a parade starting at Allerton Maze and ending by the waterfront. There isn’t too long to wait until preparations can begin for next season with the Premier League fixtures released on 13th June.
Article by Matthew Purchase – Twitter – @kopitesaint91 – Instagram – @purchase5lfc