In his weekly Liverpool blog, Dave Tindall reflects on two emotional victories and a remarkable show of passion from Jurgen Klopp.
If the reason we invest our support in a football team is to feel emotion, then my side, Liverpool, continue to pass the test with flying colours.
The Reds have absolutely put me through the ringer in the last seven days but, thankfully, I’ve come out smiling. In fact, make that whooping.
I could easily – and probably should – have been writing about a stupid loss of points at Norwich City and a dispiriting and heart-aching Capital One Cup semi-final exit to Stoke City when it seemed the hard work had been done.
Instead, I get to talk about a thrilling 5-4 win at Carrow Road and celebrate another appearance in a Cup final. Yes! We’re going to Wembley!
Jeez, what a rollercoaster.
Let’s begin the ride at Norwich where, despite a sluggish start, all looked fairly normal when Roberto Firmino’s shot bobbled into the far corner when geometry suggested it would hit the post at best.
What happened after that was depressingly familiar – more poor defending from a set-piece, Simon Mignolet letting in yet another shot he probably shouldn’t have and Alberto Moreno doing the equivalent of a callous teenager failing to run over a small animal but going back to get it next time.
3-1 down at Norwich. That really was roadkill.
This is where Klopp’s passion and desire comes to the fore though. Whereas Brendan Rodgers would have just stood there, feeling the disappointment but retaining his dignity, Klopp goes crazy apesh*t bonkers and it transfers to the team.
— LFCMostar (@LFCMostar) January 23, 2016
Since our new boss arrived, no team has scored more goals after the 75th minute of Premier League matches than us. That includes injury-time equalisers against West Brom and Arsenal – and now the latest and best extraordinary explosion of emotion so far at Carrow Road.
Having turned the game around to lead 4-3 and blown it again in injury-time from a set-piece, the volcano within was bubbling furiously. No wonder it erupted with such force when Adam Lallana bounced in a 95th minute winner.
Forget Gegenpressing – an exotic name for what Liverpool used to do in the 1980s with Ian Rush harrying defenders – as it seems we forget to do it half the time.
No, it’s this ability to fight to the end and not give up that is the German’s biggest gift so far. That is the real Klopp effect.
I’m loving the emotion because, let’s be honest, it’s masking some harsh realities. A cold analysis of this current Liverpool team would leave me rather flat. The lack of quality on display against both Norwich and Stoke was alarming.
Sure, there were pockets of it. Firmino’s first touch and calm finish to pull us level at 3-3 at Norwich was pure class (it’s hard not to think Benteke would have made a hash of Lallana’s cross in a similar position).
James Milner has also shown some high-class competence in the last two games. I was holding my breath when he ran through on goal from a Norwich back-pass, but our No.7 finished like a previous Liverpool No.7 might have done. Milner’s penalty in the shootout against Stoke was also the best of the night. Hard, true and fast into the bottom corner. Had he missed we were out.
Then again, it was a penalty shootout and we’re Liverpool FC.
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Imagine a scenario where we were useless at spot-kicks. We would have lost the 1984 European Cup final, the 2005 Champions League final (rendering worthless the astonishing fight-back from 3-0 down), the 2006 FA Cup final, the 2012 League Cup final and also failed to get to the FA Cup final (which we won) in 1992 and the Champions League final in 2007. Those wins in finals and semis account for some of the best memories of my life.
Consider this, without shootout success, we wouldn’t have won a trophy since 2003!
The overall record shows that we’ve won 14 out of 17 – a record unparalleled in English, and probably world, football. Do the current players somehow carry a collective folk memory of past successes? Something strange is happening if even Benteke (with every right to be lacking in confidence) can step up and roll the ball into the back of the net with the nonchalance of Pele, Messi and Cruyff combined.
Like on any rollercoaster ride, a down follows an up so it’s easy to imagine we’re now due to hurtle towards another trough at home to West Ham in the FA Cup on Saturday.
The Hammers have beaten us by a collective five goals to nil in the two Premier League meetings so far and we’ve expended a lot of physical and emotional energy in the last week. Logic says West Ham are the bet at 3/1.
But I’ll keep everything crossed that we can get it done. As I wrote last week, this Liverpool side are a classic cup team – too inconsistent and lacking in quality for sustained success in the Premier League but very capable of pulling something out of the bag in a cup game when emotion is probably a bigger factor due to the do-or-die nature of the format.
Kenny Dalglish took us to two cup finals in 2012 so why not a repeat?
If the worst does happen, at least take comfort from what is happening down the other end of the East Lancs road.
While we lurch between joy and despair but are ultimately made to feel alive with all the zig-zagging emotions, Manchester United fans are flat-lining zombies.
Every match day is Groundhog Day at Old Trafford. They’re served up the same dull, uninspiring fodder, and there is now actually no point in playing first halves. Just start the match after the break as you can guarantee it’ll be 0-0 after 45 minutes and no-one would have bothered having a shot on goal.
That said, I’m glad we’re playing City rather than United in the Capital One Cup final. Rather than being dragged down, City will allow us to play football and the Wembley final should be a great occasion and spectacle.
I can’t believe they’ll be as naïve as they were in the 4-1 humping we gave them at the Etihad, but the mental scars they’ll carry from that match might work in our favour.
Hopefully we’ll get it done in 90 minutes, but if we don’t, there’s no need to sweat. Why?
We’ll do them in a penalty shootout.