“It’s going to be one of those days, isn’t it?”
With two minutes to go, I could forgive any Red for thinking this. It really did have the feeling of an undeserved loss to Chelsea for the second time in a week. Chances had come and gone, Chelsea had scored an excellent goal on the break and the hourglass was conspiring against us.
But as we have demonstrated on numerous occasions this season already, this is a different Liverpool. This is a Liverpool that can reach down and drag themselves out of trouble. This is a Liverpool that has the mentality of champions.
Coming away from Stamford Bridge with our unbeaten record still intact is a huge boost for the rest of the season and ahead of a very big week, with a tough away game at Napoli in the Champions League and a showdown with Manchester City next weekend. Daniel Sturridge’s 89thminute thunderbolt could yet be our most important goal of the season.
Instead of the feeling of “same old” we can instead underline our credentials. We played well against Chelsea and even though we can thank Alisson for keeping us in the match with two key saves, we certainly deserved a draw.
Jürgen Klopp made bold substitutions at the right time – Mo Salah may be misfiring currently but it still takes a manager of steel to substitute him when you’re a goal down away from home.
And of course, one of those substitutes popped up with a crucial intervention. Sturridge’s rocket was unstoppable. As Klopp has assembled the squad that he wants, he is more able to change the game from the bench as he has proven on several occasions this season. Naby Keita was mobile and positive when he came on, making a huge difference. Xherdan Shaqiri should have scored not long after his introduction only to wastefully poke wide with the goal at his mercy and Sturridge of course made the telling contribution.
But we have constructed a team with the perfect mentality – one able to cope with the pressure of expectation and one able to come away with the points when the opposition are on top. We’ve had to ride out tough games under pressure this season, away to Crystal Palace and Leicester City comes to mind, and managed to see them through. In seasons gone by, we would have dropped points but this year, we’ve had the resolve to hang on.
This campaign is still in its relative infancy, but our record against “the big six” is already massively improved. Trips to Stamford Bridge and Wembley last season resulted in no points – we’re up four points already this season. If this continues, we are well on course to be right in the mix come the middle of May.
It was refreshing to see us set up so positively against Chelsea – it would have been easy to play that game over cautiously but we showed them no fear, if plenty of respect. Every match we play now, I expect us to control the tempo and the flow of the game, no matter who we play. This is a team that believes in itself a lot more since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk. The Dutch centre half is truly a £75m bargain. He has completely changed the mentality of his defence, exuding confidence and control that rubs off on the rest of the back four.
The result at Chelsea is massive, because we would have undoubtedly lost that game in years gone by. We’ll need to adopt the same spirit against Manchester City, in a game where we will likely be under pressure for long spells. We’ll certainly need to be a lot more clinical but that’s something I am convinced will come in time.
I’m just going to enjoy the fact we don’t know when we’re beaten – and I’m going to enjoy watching Sturridge’s goal on loop!
*all odds are subject to change
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