A Liverpool FC year in review part one: January - May 2018

In this two-parter, Jack Hallows reviews Liverpool Football Club’s 2018, pouring over the highs and the lows before revealing our readers’ favourite goal, win, match and signing. 

2018 has been an absolutely mad year for Liverpool Football Club and it certainly feels earned given the way our lads have performed over the last twelve months, that we end it top of the Premier League.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing and clear skies for our men in red but then, football very rarely is! The ups have however, completely outweighed the lows with the business done by the club in particular one of the most impressive parts.

From selling Coutinho and bringing in Virgil van Dijk in January, to using the summer to both go big on Alisson and dip into the bargain bucket for Shaqiri, Klopp and Michael Edwards have arguably done very little wrong.

So without further waffling, let’s have a look back at Liverpool’s 2018.

Manchester City, take note | January, 2018

Liverpool’s year kicked off in spectacular fashion away to Burnley where, in conditions more akin to a Bear Grylls’ survival program than a game of Premier League football, Klopp’s men got their year off to a winning start.

Sadio Mané scored one of his best goals yet in a Liverpool shirt with his left leg, while a last minute winner came courtesy of the most unlikeliest of duos: Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren.

The goodwill towards 2018 had started a week beforehand however, when the club had announced that after six months of courting and grovelling to Southampton, Virgil van Dijk was finally a Liverpool player.

The Dutchman would make his Liverpool debut in their second fixture of the year, a home FA Cup tie against city rivals Everton where he scored a towering headed winner to announce himself on Merseyside and ensure bragging rights stayed at Anfield.

Then came perhaps the most important fixture of Liverpool’s 2018. Manchester City at home in the Premier League.

With news emerging before the match that Virgil would miss the game through injury, I joined a long list of worried Liverpool fans. City were at this point still invincible, having steamrolled everyone in their path.

Not today. Not at Anfield.

Klopp’s record against Guardiola has been very good over the year and the German was not afraid to take the fight to the Champions elect.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got the Reds off to the perfect start with a sublime hit from outside the box that nestled into Ederson’s far corner but a Leroy Sane goal ensured that half time was tense, the match evenly poised with the potential to go either way.

In a manic nine minute period from the 59th to the 68th though, Liverpool let the beast out of the cage and to say that it exploded into life would be an understatement.

A delightful dink from Firmino, a thunder bastard to rival his effort just a fortnight earlier at Burnley from Mané and a goal from halfway or thereabouts from Salah put Liverpool 4-1 up and despite the visitors grabbing two back to force a nervy finish, City were beaten. The 5-0 defeat Liverpool had suffered earlier in the season now nothing but a distant memory.

There were bizarre losses to Swansea (1-0) and West Brom in the FA Cup (3-2) but Liverpool would end the month back on winning ways with a routine victory at Huddersfield (3-0).

Portuguese madness | February, 2018

Liverpool’s February kicked off with that 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur. You know the one where Harry Kane and Erik Lamela both forgot how to use their legs and were awarded penalties as a result?

The rest of the month was as good as it gets really, with Virgil van Dijk’s return to Saint Mary’s ending in a 2-0 victory to the Reds and our boys’ other home Premier League fixture for the month – against West Ham – a routine 4-1 win.

The main result from the month though came in Europe.

The Reds travelled to Portugal to take on Porto in a match that promised to be harder than it would appear. Or so it seemed anyway – it didn’t exactly pan out that way though.

The Reds ran riot in Portugal, with Sadio Mané’s hat-trick the catalyst for a 5-0 away win that effectively ended the tie in the first 90 minutes – a sign of things to come in European’s top competition for Klopp’s men.

United spoil the party & Salah bags four | March, 2018

A 2-0 win and a heavily impacted by rotation 0-0 draw started Liverpool’s March as both Newcastle and Porto visited Merseyside but the clash of the month didn’t come until the 10th – an away trip to Manchester United.

United hadn’t been in the best of form prior to the match but Mourinho at the time was still a master of the one off result and pulled one out of the bag against a Liverpool side that looked far superior on paper.

The Red Devils’ long range passing caused problems for Liverpool all afternoon and Marcus Rashford bagged a double before half time to completely dampen the contest.

The Reds attempted to launch a comeback in the second half but an Eric Bailly own goal wasn’t enough to turn around the 2-0 deficit sustained in the first 45 and the Reds were subjected to another disappointing result against United.

How did they follow it though? By battering a poor, hapless Watford side 5-0, handing Mohamed Salah his first Liverpool hat-trick.

The Egyptian was unstoppable that day, scoring four and teeing up Firmino for the solitary Reds’ goal that didn’t come from his boot. The former Roma striker simply spent the afternoon looking as if he wanted to up his contenders for the goal of the season award, his goal for the hat-trick particularly incredible to behold as he left four defenders on their backsides.

Focus turns to Europe | April, 2018

With Manchester City having all but wrapped up the title race in, well December honestly, Klopp’s gaze had turned to Europe. The 5-0 victory over Porto, combined with the signing of VVD and form of our front three had given Liverpool the confidence that they could beat anyone over two legs, especially with a number of European superpowers looking to have been banded together with duct tape to hide the cracks.

Dread then, when Manchester City were who the Reds pulled in the final eight.

Klopp’s men had done it before this season back in January, scraping home in the 4-3 victory but could they really do it again? Twice at that.

You best believe it.

A manic half hour at Anfield in which the atmosphere played as much a part as the team on the pitch, saw City dismantled and devastated with Chamberlain, Salah and Mané giving the home side a 3-0 advantage at half time.

Operation shut up shop was employed in the second half to deny the Citizens a chance at an away goal and the Reds took a 3-0 lead to the Etihad, comfortable in the knowledge that a single away goal would likely be enough.

Of course, it was never going to be quite that simple and despite allowing Gabriel Jesus to grab one back for Guardiola’s men in the second minute, luck seemed to be on Liverpool’s side for much of the first 45, allowing them to go to half time with a two goal lead still intact.

Cometh the hour (almost literally, he scored in the 56th), cometh the Egyptian King.

It’s still my favourite goal from this calendar year, Mané breaking into the box, Ederson failing to gather the ball from his feet and Mohamed Salah arriving, dinking a hapless Otamendi who was doing his best on the line and sinking City hearts before celebrating like a god in front of the travelling Kop.

Firmino would seal the result with a superb solo goal whereby, if you asked someone to typify the Brazilian with just one of his goals, it would be that one.

The Reds did it all again just a fortnight later, blowing Roma away and putting five goals past Liverpool keeper-to-be Alisson Becker (who has conceded the same amount for both Roma and Liverpool at Anfield this season, only he did so in just 90 minutes for Roma).

Mohamed Salah once again led the charge, scoring two sublime goals himself before assisting both Firmino and Mané. It would be the final time in the 2017/18 season that the three would all get on the score sheet in the same match.

Karius to heartbreak | May, 2018

Two away goals over in Italy proved to be enough for Liverpool to proceed to the final of the Champions League – against Real Madrid as well we know – despite a 4-2 loss in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final.

In the time between that fixture and the final, a tired Liverpool were beaten 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, before finishing the Premier League campaign on a sweeter note at home, hammering Brighton 4-0 and securing Champions League football for the next season.

Mohamed Salah also became the highest goalscoring individual for a single 38 game Premier League campaign, netting his 32nd goal of the season in the victory and marking his name down in the history books.

If only the Champions League final could’ve been so sweet.

I won’t dwell on it, we all know what happened and we all know what might have happened had Sergio Ramos not been such a tool and Loris Karius not forgotten where he was.

It happens, football’s a beautiful game but at times, also a cruel game.

The image of Loris Karius leaving the field in tears will stay with me for a long time and I genuinely hope that he can find his feet somewhere else, whether that be at his current club Besiktas or elsewhere.

It wasn’t all bad though, Klopp had successfully sewn the seeds with his side and had identified weaknesses, strengths and what needed to be changed in order to prevent the Reds’ next shot at a trophy ending in the same devastation.

All that mattered once the final whistle blew was that our boys would come together, agreeing to allow the experience to make them stronger rather than break them down and plan for the next season.

Move forward and never walk alone.

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