Two of the best title races in recent years – Liverpool F.C. raise the bar

Two of the best title races in recent years – Liverpool F.C. raise the bar

A blockbuster semi-final and Champions League victory is not enough for Liverpool, who will chase the Premier League title in 2019/20 with a new kind of determination.

Liverpool have proven to be football giants after last season’s performance. In both the 2018/19 Premier League and Champions League, The Reds defied the odds and demonstrated that they are a major force in football.

As the Premier League title edged a little further away, the Champions League ebbed in. On May 7th, Liverpool produced one of the most astounding comebacks in football history, beating Barcelona 4-0 to reach the Champions League finals after a 3-0 deficit in their first leg. As the final whistle sounded, cheers from home fans thundered through Anfield whilst a bewildered Barca-side wasted no time to head towards their nearest exit. That night, the atmosphere at Anfield was special – it reminded all about the greatness of football, with its ability to shock and conjure up unforeseeable storylines as Liverpool achieved what was thought to be impossible.

It’s hard to determine which individual stole the show as there were heroes in red shirts no matter where you looked, though hats have to be taken off to Georginio Wijnaldum, Divock Origi and Alisson Becker. Liverpool were a true depiction of what a team looks like and how a team should act that night. So how did they do it? Without Mohamed Salah, without Roberto Firmino – how would they do it?

It started with Origi, who after just seven minutes of play, tapped in Marc-André ter Stegen’s parry off Jordan Henderson’s blow. In the opening ten minutes, Barcelona had just managed 38% possession of the ball but that did not mean they wouldn’t threaten. Barca responded on the attack and efforts were made by Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho to do serious damage but Alisson denied them any opportunities. It came very close when Jordi Alba attempted to remedy his mistake and sent a shot hurling towards a Liverpool goal but Alisson was there to meet the ball once more.

Things looked like they were going to take a turn for the worse when Henderson went down. After a medical check-up he was good to continue play but then like a game of dominos, Robertson fell and didn’t return to the pitch after half-time, due to a kick to the calf that came from Luis Suarez. Klopp sent Wijnaldum on as his substitute and dropped James Milner to left-back and to some unknown miracle, that turned out to be the best thing the German could have done.

The collapse of Barcelona was shocking for all – home and away fans, even Suarez was in disbelief as he stared vacantly into the crowds. Within the first 11 minutes, Wijnaldum had scored two goals –two minutes after the other – drawing Liverpool equal to their rivals. The first goal came off a low-cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Wijnaldum stroked the ball right under Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s torso. Two minutes later, he emerged unmarked to header in Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross, sending Anfield into a wild frenzy.

The Reds took the lead by another assist from Alexander-Arnold, who deceived a distracted Barca-side and pretended to walk off for Shaqiri to take the corner before dashing back and sending the ball in Origi’s path. Origi responded in a rapid manner and swept it home with eleven minutes to go. By now Anfield Stadium was rocking, trembling and shaking with cheers and roars of the Liverpool club anthem.

The Champions League finals lacked all the excitement of the game-changing semis that had seen Liverpool and Tottenham reach Madrid but nevertheless, it was a final full of suspense and euphoria.

Liverpool were handed their first opportunity and it was star striker Mohamed Salah, who put The Reds out in front. After just two minutes of play, Moussa Sissoko was punished for a questionable handball that came off Sadio Mane and Salah took the penalty. And Salah didn’t miss, firing the ball firmly down the middle. Tottenham tried to create pace and began to have more possession of the ball but didn’t create a shot on target until the 73rd minute, which fell right into the hands of Alisson.

The Lilywhites were starting to look more dangerous in the second-half and no doubt Liverpool were grateful to Alisson, for producing key saves. He first stopped Heung-Min Son’s strike and then hat-trick hero, Lucas Moura, who was given 30 minutes by Mauricio Pochettino to produce a miracle but just couldn’t get past the Brazilian keeper. Tottenham were growing in pace but under the sweltering Spanish heat just couldn’t do enough and Origi soon found the back of Spurs net three minute before time. Liverpool had won their 6th Champions League and Klopp, his first European triumph.

It was said that the Champions League was their “second prize” and that the Reds were set on achieving the Premier League title, so fans and football enthusiasts should expect the Premier League 2019/20 campaign to be a blockbuster show. Last season, Liverpool set a number of records, one of which being the most points for a Premier League second-finisher and it can be presumed that they’ll be outdoing themselves this time round.

In the 2018/19 campaign the Champions of Europe missed out on the Premier League title by a single point to rivals and reining champs Man City. It’s now been 30-years since Liverpool have been crowned Champions of England and they are hungry for that title. Who do you think will be victorious next season?

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