Article by David Rice – @davidjrice83
I’ve never had so many people use social media to check in on my well-being. Fair play to them, I had my doubts about how the night might end for my physical health once Trent Alexander Arnold capped off a performance for the ages with that cheeky corner.
It certainly was not the only doubt of the evening. All the sense you could muster told you that we were done. That Liverpool couldn’t possibly have more magic in the tank after this league run. But logic is for science. It’s for algorithms and math teachers. Football does not need logic. When it’s at its best, it holds none.
The last text received in my phone before kickoff was a close friend. “I shouldn’t be this hopeful, but I’m just so hopeful,” it read.
The last text sent: “To be honest, I don’t know why, but I am too.”
The formula universally agreed on by everyone I spoke to beforehand was simple enough. Get one early, go into half up 1-0. We all had faith. Attacking the Kop in the second half, the crowd alone could suck two goals in. The only thing left to question is whether the boys could keep a clean sheet.
Ask for perfection, these Reds deliver. From Alisson hitting peak form to Joel Matip sticking the world in his back pocket. For all his brilliance on the night and the season, Virgil van Dijk was somehow the second-best centre back on the pitch Tuesday night.
I’ve never doubted Jordan Henderson’s heart, though I’ve been guilty of questioning his quality. On Tuesday, he had it all, as he so often has this season. All the grit, all the effort, all the quality needed to win big games, to do special things. But most of all, the character to act as a leader of men.
James Milner’s value and versatility on full display, Xherdan Shaqiri’s perfect imperfection, Virgil’s ability to turn a high sea of emotion to placid lake of confidence, and Sadio Mane’s ability to make defenders shit the bed, even when he’s not necessarily at his most brilliant. There is no way to talk about these things without emotion, without sincere adoration. Some may throw logic or rational thought at you about these things, the performances of these men. Close the door in their face.
Picking a man of the match on a night like that is next to impossible, but the work of Fabinho, the emotion he poured into that match, the skill he displayed in picking the ball off Barca players time and time again was fitting of a throaty rendition of Poetry in Motion.
Divock Origi’s journey from likely summer outgoing to crunch time goal maestro is complete. It’s a story of hard work, dedication, not giving up on yourself and making the most of the slightest of chances. A testament to this manager and his ability to not only see the best in people, but extract it from them in ways that stun the individual and the masses.
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I woke up Wednesday singing the Gini Wijnauldum song still, marveling at the way a 25-million-pound signing from relegated Newcastle has made a habit of scoring goals in European semifinal second legs. Remembering the ways he’s gone from one assignment to the next, altering his play and his approach to the environment, to the game, like a five foot nine inch chameleon. That turn to put himself in space around the 80th minute was absolutely brilliant, his every touch driving another nail in their coffin.
But of all the story lines and all the angles you could look at from this match, it’d be impossible to understand what this team did without appreciating the work of a 20-year old kid from West Derby. Twenty! When I was 20, I was selling random shit on eBay, swerving college algebra and discovering the amount of, you know, “things” you can find on the internet.
Trent Alexander Arnold was, in 90 minutes, a more productive and inspirational human being than most of us will be at any point in our entire lives. When Barca players close their eyes and have nightmares about that night, they’ll likely see Trent running past them in every direction.
What I love almost as much as his cleverness to set up the final goal is the willpower he exudes in our second. A switch from Mane bounces to his head and he puts it into space, only to see that filled by Ivan Rakitic who then tries to play a quick pass back into the wide area. Trent, never giving up, never ceding an inch, read it perfectly and pounced, winning the tackle and taking off up the pitch to set up Gini’s first. It wasn’t the most beautiful cross, it was just the one we needed, the culmination of the player’s sheer willingness to do everything, to be everywhere.
It was all so perfect, a delicate recipe for ecstasy conjured up by Jurgen Klopp that delivered one of those nights you’ll remember for decades, no matter where in the world you viewed it from. You’ll remember the football and the people. You’ll remember how this manager created an environment and an ethos that saw young men flourish, that saw supporters and players come together to control destiny and make these dreams reality.
A typical season might see a team have one or two moments like this for the entirety of the campaign. We’ve now had more than I can count and seem to be saving the best for last. I’ve celebrated few things in my life like that night. I’m exhausted mentally, and of course, emotionally. But it doesn’t matter. Two more times, we go again. We can sleep when it’s over.
As the final whistle blew the previous Wednesday, the result left me shell shocked. It left me talking of dreaming while you could, of loving these lads whether the end of the season has shiny things included in it or not. Well, it’s now mid-May, and you’ve got everything to dream about and a team full of lads you know will, as Fabinho put it after the match, “leave their lives on the ground,” for you.
It’s mid-May and there are dreams to be had. Up the double chasing Reds!
Article by David Rice – @davidjrice83