With Liverpool’s biggest game of the season coming up on Sunday afternoon when they take on Middlesbrough for the chance to cement their Champions League spot, Jack Hallows looks back on five other victories that have brought them to where they are now.
Okay, so obviously every single win Liverpool have had this season has been necessary and there are some that only just didn’t make the cut but for me, here’s the Reds ‘Big 5′ this season.
Arsenal 3 – 4 Liverpool – What a Start!
Opening day of the season. Away to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. You couldn’t realistically have asked for many harder opening day fixtures. The Reds have a history of struggling on visits to Arsenal but glancing down the team sheet and seeing a number of Arsenal’s first team stars not yet fit to start was at least somewhat reassuring – until Theo Walcott put the hosts 1-0 up that is.
The Englishman had seen his penalty saved by Simon Mignolet just minutes earlier but Arsenal capitalised on a combined defensive error from Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana and his crisp finish looked to confirm the worst case scenario.
Enter Philippe Coutinho.
Not many players can say they’ve beaten Petr Cech with a 35-yard free kick in their careers but if anyone at Liverpool was going to do it, it was always going to be Phil. The Brazilian found the top corner with aplomb just seconds before half time and the goal changed the entire flow of the game.
Within minutes of the restart, Liverpool had gone 4-1 up courtesy of Lallana, Coutinho again and some sensational work from Sadio Mané and while Arsenal grabbed two of their own back, the Reds left London with three points.
While the Anfield win in February was arguably a more impressive team performance from the Reds, this game was vital due to the fact it had the potential to define our season. Lose and we were on the back foot from the word go but to take three points on a ground where we have a poor history against the team who finished second the season before? What a lift that provided.
Liverpool 4 – 1 Leicester – The Anfield Fortress
Having been embarrassed by Burnley before having to settle for sharing a point apiece with Tottenham despite outplaying them, Liverpool were raring to go for their first home game of the season.
The new Main Stand saw the volume knob raised to 11 and the team’s performance followed suit. Last year’s champions were made to look like relegation fodder in one of the Reds most clinical team performances of the season and when Roberto Firmino put the icing on the cake by tapping in the fourth goal you knew that this team had the potential to become something special.
Arsenal had suffered a blistering – devastating even – 15 minute spell against the Reds on opening day but it was here, at Anfield, that our attack really shone for the first time this season. Not to mention we did the bulk of it with Philippe Coutinho on the bench!
The pace of Mané, the skill of Firmino and the knitting work of Sturridge saw Leicester’s backline carved open time and time again as they struggled to find an answer to stopping the Reds storming forward in waves. The massive win sent out a statement to the rest of the league that has been adhered to against a majority of sides this season: “come and play expansively at Anfield and we will make you pay.”
Chelsea 1 – 2 Liverpool – London? Completed it, mate.
I’m still a little miffed about this game as I had the chance to attend but turned it down in favour of my best friend’s 21st birthday celebrations. What a win it turned out to be. I remember sitting in the restaurant receiving a Facebook message from my brother – a Chelsea fan – who I’d asked to update me at half time and full time and thinking “let’s see the damage then,” only for it to read, “fair play to Liverpool, brilliant half from them and what a goal from Henderson.”
Over the course of this season I’ve gone back and watched that whole game from start to finish numerous times and I am convinced it’s one of the best 90 minutes of football we’ve played this campaign.
Diego Costa’s goal aside, the home team barely had a sniff at our goal and the Reds midfield, in particular, was efficient, balanced, calm and just bloody fantastic. This was also for me the first time we really saw what the Matip and Lovren partnership is capable of and how well they can complement each other when they’re both playing well. They dominated the likes of Hazard and Costa that night and arguably if any defensive performance this season deserved a clean sheet it was this one.
Of course, it would be rude of me not to mention that absolute screamer from Henderson who can look back on this season and think “I may have only scored once but what a goal it was.”
Liverpool 3 – 1 Everton – Still top dogs on Merseyside
This was a huge result for a number of reasons. The first – Liverpool had been winning but not playing brilliantly before the preceding international break and this was the first result since the 2-0 victory over Spurs that we’d actually seen a truly free-flowing Liverpool team.
The second – the return of Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian had been woeful since his return from injury but his performance against our Merseyside rivals was an absolute joy to watch. His absolute wonder goal to give the Reds back the lead was his first of six in his last eight matches and really kickstarted the magical run of form he’s been on in the last few months of the season.
The final reason – belief. While it’s not been there in the droves that perhaps it was back in November, this result was huge for the belief of the club’s support. What better way to get the fans back on your side than by absolutely twatting your rivals aside at Anfield and leaving them in the dust?
Stoke City 1 – 2 Liverpool – Victory from the jaws of defeat
The final game I want to highlight is the Reds’ victory at Stoke just over a month ago. The Reds started the game in an unusual formation – a type of 3-5-2 – with no Sadio Mané, no Jordan Henderson, no Adam Lallana and Brazilian duo Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino stuck on the bench.
It came as no real surprise then that when halftime hit the Reds were 1-0 down and looking absolutely dreadful. In fact, I’d probably go as far as to say that the first half at the Britannia was one of the worst 45 minutes the Reds have played all season.
How things changed. Jürgen Klopp opted to throw Firmino and Coutinho on for the entirety of the second half and the sudden change was immense. By the time Philippe Coutinho buried the first goal of the comeback with a sweet strike into the bottom corner, Dejan Lovren had already hit the crossbar and Stoke ‘keeper Lee Grant had been well and truly tested on a handful of occasions.
It only seemed fitting then that the other Brazilian in the equation would get the eventual winner and what a winner it was. The Brazilian latched onto an over the top through ball from Wijnaldum, letting it drop over his shoulder, bounce once and then hitting it as sweetly as I’ve ever seen someone hit a football on the half-volley into the top corner from 30 yards. Game done? Not just yet.
Step up Simon Mignolet. The Belgian has been under fire for almost the entirety of his Liverpool career since arriving from Sunderland back in 2013 but this game was the perfect example of his recent upturn in form.
Mignolet denied Charlie Adam from point blank range with a stunning reflex save before rivalling Jerzy Dudek’s Istanbul double save with an impossible stop from Sadio Berahino late on earning the Reds three points.
The game kickstarted a run of four away victories on the bounce and can certainly be seen as the Reds turning a corner in terms of mental toughness and ability to perform under pressure.