Frustration to bliss

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There’s no better team to beat than Man United, if you’re a Liverpool fan. Even I, the diehard detester of the Bitters, will tell you that. When we last won the top division, garnering our 18th title in 1990, the Mancs had seven. Seven. Since that time, they’ve won 13 and displaced us as the best club in England. It became ever more difficult to squeeze out a win against them and that has often been the case even since Ferguson left. The last time we won a game at Old Trafford was in 2014 (yes, that season.) Before last December, the last time we got a victory over them at Anfield was in 2013 (yes, that season.) And the frustrating part about it is that many of these are games that we’ve dominated; just like today. Indeed, that game where the Cube got his brace went into halftime tied at 1-1, even though we’d been playing them off the field. This game was looking a lot like that one after Virg gave us the lead in the 15th minute. We controlled this game. They sat back and defended like a team struggling to scrape a point to stay out of the relegation zone. We had valid goals wiped out by VAR ridiculousness (Bobby.) We had invalid goals that were offside by the narrowest margin (Gini.) We had flat-out breathe-hard-and-it-goes-in chances like Mo’s early in the second half. We had de Gea doing damnable de Gea things, like getting a fingertip onto Henderson’s blast and putting it off the post. We put them under siege for the first ten minutes of the second half! We had 7 attempts on goal in the opening 9 minutes. This was Leicester City, redux. And, yet, here we were, struggling to put away a 1-0 game. And then, this happened

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Alisson apparently had recently watched Pepe Reina’s charge down the field after dropping the ball onto David N’Gog in 2005 against United and had it in mind after becoming the first Liverpool keeper to get an assist since Reina fed Torres against Sunderland in 2010 (There’s a reason that Reina, despite not being here during many brilliant times in his LFC career, is fondly remembered.) So, yeah, that was a pressure release. And then I go back and watch some highlights and the frustration just comes flooding back. THAT should’ve been a goal! And THAT should’ve been a goal! And THAT should’ve been the fifteenth foul called against people grappling Salah! And that should’ve been the fourth yellow issued against Matic! Why does all of this drive me nuts? Because the scorelines have flatted those silly bastards for the past three years and I came into this game really wanting a good 4-0 or 5-0 beating like we’ve often dealt out to teams that come in playing a 4-5-1 because they’re afraid of how much better we are than them. You know… bottom-half sides. Like Man United. (Yes, I know they’re fifth. They’re also 30 points behind us. Piss off.)

But we didn’t get that. Instead, we got a solid win where we were the team that clearly deserved to win for all but a fraction of the time allotted. And that, in itself, should be enough for most Reds fans. Beyond all the idiotic complaints about “LiVARpool”; beyond all the fools trying to suggest that this or that Manchester United or Manchester City player or unit is better because of X statistic; beyond all of the people suggesting that the league is down and, thus, this LFC team isn’t that good, despite coming out of a European season where all four finalists for the top two trophies were English and where the bookies’ favorites to win both competitions this year are also English, we come to one conclusion: Anyone with knowledge of the game knows how good this win was, how good this season is, and how good this team is. Like my friend, Michael, a Barca fan, tweeted this morning: “Last year, there were four elite teams: Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Ajax. This year, there’s only Liverpool.”

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The game. And the hilarious part of me being frustrated is that we played brilliantly. Again, we dominated this game. People are laughing about Henderson being considered the best midfielder in England but… tell me one playing better, other than maybe De Bruyne? Hendo, Gini, and Ox basically defused everything that United did before it even reached the back four and this is with ManU ostensibly playing a 5-man midfield to generate overloads. The below is just a highlight of that group performance:

Crushed. Them. Gini’s nutmeg of most-expensive-defender-in-the-world, Harry Maguire, to create another attack is just emblematic of how good he is. Had he been leaning a little bit to his right at the Anfield Road end, he would’ve had a goal to go with it. Had de Gea not been the best player ManU had on the pitch, Hendo would’ve, too.

Speaking of the back line. It’s so easy to get tired of the everpresent refrain: “Virgil Van Dijk is the best defender in the world!” But, then, he is.

Incidentally, he scored that header that gave us the lead by outjumping most-expensive-defender-in-the-world, Harry Maguire. Do you get tired of that constant refrain, too? I bet ManU fans do. (Ask one of them how much Bruno Fernandes might cost now, as opposed to last July. See how well that goes over.) I think I’ve gone back to look at that Twitter thread of people laughing at us for paying what we did for Virg a couple dozen times. It never fails to get a chuckle. As noted on Twitter by @IwasKJ, Virg is the player all the parents complain is too old for this league.

Sticking with the back line, Trent is now three away from his own record for assists by a defender, with 9. In January. He’s also leading Europe for assists on set pieces, with 5. Alisson also now has more clean sheets (28) than goals conceded (27) in his EPL career. That was LFC’s seventh consecutive refusal to allow the other team to score. We now have the most in the league (9.) I could spit numbers like this all day. It still wouldn’t come close to demonstrating just how good this team is. Oh, by the way:

Bob is still Bob. He’s still the engine of our offense. And that disallowed goal was emblematic of what a crock “LiVARpool” is, since we’re now (and still) in the lower half of teams in the EPL that have had VAR positively affect their games.

More gushing details. That’s 150 wins under Kloppo. That’s 11 hours and 15 mins since we last surrendered a goal in the league. That’s as many Salah goals for LFC as Torres, in nine fewer games. Alisson now has more Premier League assists this season than Jesse Lingard does. After missing nine matches with injury or suspension, he’s also in the lead for the Golden Glove. It’s the first time LFC have ever scored in each of their first 22 games in a season. It’s also the first time it’s been done in the EPL since Arsenal in 2001-02. Most-expensive-defender-in-the-world(!), Harry Maguire, was dribbled past more times (2) than the entire Liverpool team (1).

Alright, next up: Wolves. Again. Already (as in Thursday.) But this time at Molyneux. I’ve been thinking about this one as a potential stumbling block for a couple months now, since it comes hard on the heels of two big dates with Spurs and Mancs. But this team seems able to handle whatever is thrown in its direction, so let’s get on with it.

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