Dominance and plenty of late winners: The games that defined Liverpool’s march to glory

Dominance and plenty of late winners: The games that defined Liverpool’s march to glory

Written by Debkalpa Banerjee

Published: June 26, 2020 1:46:54 pm

Liverpool clinched the Premier League title for the first time since 1990. (Source: Reuters)

After decades of near-misses, mid-table finishes, and agonising humiliation at the hands of the rivals, Liverpool are finally the champions of England. Ending a 30-year drought, Liverpool clinched their 19th domestic league title when the final whistle went at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

What started on August 9 with a win against Norwich City ended with Liverpool winning the title thanks to 22-point lead over Manchester City with seven matches in hand. Over the course of the season, the Reds broke records with an aura of sheer determination and doggedness.

Having won 28 matches, drawing two and losing just one to Watford, Jürgen Klopp‘s ‘mentality monsters’ made history by dominating their opponents and occasionally with the late-winners.

Weathering the obstacles posed by tricky opponents like Chelsea (2-1), Sheffield United (1-0), Leicester City (2-1), Manchester United (1-1), and Tottenham Hotspur (2-1), Liverpool maintained their unbeaten run for 10 matches before visiting Villa Park. The Reds had already shown their resolve by winning points through the late winners/equalisers, and when all seemed lost, they relied on the same against Aston Villa.

After trailing for almost the entire match, Liverpool turned the table on its head as Andrew Robertson scored a header in the 87th minute to cancel out Trezeguet’s 21-minute opener. Dean Smith’s men parked the bus soon after in the hope of getting a point, but Sadio Mane emerged tallest in the 94th minute to win the match with a glancing header in the far-post.

Fabinho opened the scoring for Liverpool against Manchester City with a 25-yard scorcher. (Source: Reuters)

Welcoming the reigning champions led by the indomitable Pep Guardiola was never going to be an easy task for the 2018/19 runners-up, but Liverpool showed their mettle from the start itself. Manchester City were on their toes after 11 matches, but they were pushed back when Fabinho scored from 25-yards out in the sixth minute.

After that, barring a controversial penalty call that went Liverpool’s way, the six-time UEFA Champions League winners dominated the game, winning the ball and pressing City in key areas.  Mohamed Salah doubled the lead with a header off Robertson’s cross in the 13th minute after a trademark counter-attack. In the second half, Sadio Mane tripled the lead with a diving header past Claudio Bravo in the 51st minute. Although Bernardo Silva scored in the 78th minute, it was no more than a consolation in a lost cause.

Liverpool shifted gears to blow away their opposition when they visited the King Power Stadium to take on a team managed by their former manager, Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool had just arrived with the FIFA Club World Cup trophy after a 10-day stay in Doha, Qatar and there were doubts over whether the fixture congestion would affect their performances.

The boys from Anfield utilised everything in their locker that night and obliterated the then second-placed Foxes, as they opened the scoring in the 31st minute through Roberto Firmino. Liverpool’s very own Trent Alexander-Arnold orchestrated the doom of Leicester City as he scored one and provided assists for two goals to show exactly why he was nominated for Ballon d’Or. Three goals in the space of seven minutes towards the end of the match earned Liverpool the title of ‘Champions Elect’.

READ | Jürgen Klopp, the eccentric who put Liverpool back on its perch

Mohamed Salah provided one of the moments of the season when he scored past David de Gea after a 60-yard run. (Source: Reuters)

Already boasting a gigantic 14-point lead, Liverpool welcomed the one opponent who had managed to take points off them in the season — their fierce rivals Manchester United. Back in October, the Red Devils had managed a 1-1 draw against Liverpool. In that game, Adam Lallana had to come off the bench to score an equaliser for the visiting team in the 85th minute. The affair at Anfield was different.

Right from the start, Klopp’s gegenpressing system choked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team and prevented them for getting into their penalty area. In the 13th minute, the architect at the back, Virgil van Dijk proved his worth to the team when he towered over all opposition defenders and headed the ball home from a corner-kick. Although United kept themselves in the game for over an hour after that, the talismanic Mohamed Salah put the final nail in the coffin in style, when he finished past David de Gea in the 93rd minute after a 60-yard dribble from his own half.

The pandemic struck the world and the Premier League and the season went into hiatus in mid-March with Liverpool on 82 points from 29 matches. But considering Klopp’s men had been handed their first defeat by Watford, and were knocked out of both UEFA Champions League and FA Cup just before the lockdown, there were fears the squad emerging from the lockdown might lack their previous rhythm. The team’s first match, a goalless draw against Everton, didn’t help.

But against Palace, Liverpool picked things up from where they left off and increased their lead over City to 23 points. Alexander-Arnold kicked things off with a sublime free-kick in the 23rd minute, and from then Liverpool never lost control. Salah doubled the lead just before half-time, Fabinho scored yet another worldie in the 55th minute and Mane scored the fourth against a hapless Palace in the 69th minute to wrap up the match.

READ | What are the Premier League records Liverpool have broken this season?

Now, all that’s left after winning the title for Liverpool is to concentrate on all the records that they can still break. With seven matches left, the Reds can break the Premier League points record, most wins record, and many others.

Liverpool will next visit the Etihad Stadium on July 2 where they will get a guard of honour from the defending champions, Manchester City. But the celebrations are already on in Liverpool and it’s doubtful if they will stop before Jordan Henderson lifts the trophy on July 26.

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