Liverpool fans hailed Naby Keita for slowing the game down when the Reds looked at risk of allowing Chelsea the chance to get back into it.
The diminutive Guinean has been criticised over the last few months for his unbalanced play style. With his strengths quite obviously more attack-oriented, his defensive game is comparatively weak.
He was at fault for West Ham’s equaliser when the Hammers held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at the start of February. As he lost his focus, he allowed Michail Antonio to ghost in behind him as the Englishman scored for his side.
Following that Keita played less football than he would have liked but he is now starting regularly for the Reds and he and his teammates are reaping the rewards.
Against Chelsea, it was clear from the off that the 24-year-old’s creativity would be needed against a resolute defence but he also showcased his improved defensive work rate.
He rushed back after the Reds lost possession to dispossess N’Golo Kante with a well-timed tackle from behind. But his most notable moment was when he put his foot on the ball and stopped playing to allow his teammates the chance to slow down.
Fans on Twitter hailed his composure and footballing IQ for being so casual during what was a frenetic few minutes of play.
Naby Keita telling everyone to calm down while he still on the ball. Just shows how suited he is in our midfield within the past week. pic.twitter.com/oXFmGyJdgA
— Samue (@VintageSalah) April 14, 2019
Yeah, Henderson’s cross and Salah’s goal were boss an all but did we all see Keita just stop playing footie for a sec when it was all going off? Just had a chill, kicked it back to the goalie for a bit. My favourite bit of the match that, might be moment of the season tbh.
— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) April 14, 2019
Really impressed with Naby Keita so far. Confident in possession and constantly looks like making something happen. Off-the-ball work has been strong too.
— Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) April 14, 2019
Some said Keita shouldn't be played in big matches. MAN LITERALLY STOPPED THE GAME, got the ball, did some showboating and told everyone to calm the fuck down and we saw the game out pic.twitter.com/ah14HESxwX
— Dinesh Kumar (@DHardayal) April 14, 2019
I know that Hendo’s got the MOTM but Naby Keita’s first 20 minutes was perfect for Liverpool. His overall contribution of doing things in the right areas at the right time was brilliant for me. He kicks on like this and £52M is a steal.
— Brian (@OneScouse) April 14, 2019
Fabinho and Naby Keita were top drawer today. When we signed both players all those months ago, we didn’t know how long we’d have to wait to see them thrive. Some time later and they’re performing incredibly well whilst hugely influencing games. They’re very special players.
— Matt (@FalseFirmino) April 14, 2019
Short moments like this define games. As much as Mo Salah’s rocket into the top corner gave Liverpool extra momentum in a huge game, Keita urging his teammates to calm down helped them keep their 2-0 lead.
Eden Hazard had two enormous chances to score but after he failed to do so, Jurgen Klopp’s side played superbly to make sure Chelsea didn’t get a foothold in the game.
Instead, the Blues wavered and Liverpool continued to dominate and in the end strolled to a comfortable 2-0 win, sending them back to the top of the Premier League.