ANFIELD, LIVERPOOL — There is about Anfield these days a sense of scale not experienced since the days of Shankly and Paisley, an atmosphere, a feeling almost that destiny is somehow playing out. The players seem driven by it and the crowd utterly convinced of it. How else to explain the dramatic winning goal bundled across the line in the last minute of normal time to yield three points that might yet beckon nirvana.
Spurs were in the ascendency. Liverpool, who scored early, had a hot 10 minutes when it looked like they might run away with it, were managing disappointment in the closing stages fortunate to be on level terms. And then it was though the ghosts of Keegan and Toshack, of Dalglish and Rush called forth the red shirts for one more rousing effort. We had hardly seen Mo Salah. Indeed his header at the far post reminded us that he was in fact still on the pitch. Even then it needed the Kop to suck the ball over the line via the unfortunate boot of Toby Alderweireld.
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Anfield convulsed, relief washing over the place. Earlier in the season when the sense of what might be did not weigh so heavy, Mane might have had a hat-trick. But at this point in the campaign, misses come with consequences. They tighten limbs, they slow movement and give the opposition hope.
Tottenham, despite arriving on the back of their poorest run of form this season, were not in the least overawed. Neither were they overmatched. Before the Liverpool goal Spurs were full of organised fizz and promise, Lucas Moura in particular discomfiting the home defence. And in the second half there was no let up as Spurs did what they could to heighten the tension. The equalising goal swept home by Moura was coming.
Harry Kane had forced a brilliant save from Alisson, Christian Eriksen blasted wastefully over with the net almost begging him to fill it. And with the clock running down Liverpool had Virgil van Dijk to thank for spooking Moussa Sissoko into rushing his shot as he bore down on the box. That moment looked liked an apposite moment to blow the whistle, two teams cancelling each other out. A point a piece, fair enough.
Liverpool oozing with character
Back to the unseen force pulling strings at Anfield. Thirty long years have passed since Liverpool really meant business. At times this season they have been the Premier League’s most compelling outfit. For an hour at the Etihad in January they looked as assured as any of the great Liverpool teams of the Seventies and Eighties. That swagger has gone but not the character that underpinned it.
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What we are seeing under Jurgen Klopp is not just a team for this season but a side capable of leaving a significant mark on the epoch. The defeat at the Etihad remains their only loss. Manchester City have stumbled four times. They might wobble again. Little is easy at this point in the campaign as City’s goalless second half at Craven Cottage demonstrated.
Standing on the touchline early in the piece Klopp was a study in prickly agitation, perplexed by the fractional hiccups. Then what appeared a routine burst down the left by Andy Robertson turned into something special when his whipped cross was met by Bobby Firmino. The Spurs defence, caught square by the arc of the ball, seemed frozen in time. Only Firmino, it appeared, had the privilege of movement. The crowd were dragged out of their seats by anticipation, as if their febrile engagement were helping the ball past Hugo Lloris. Perhaps it was.
Klopp went through his full gamut of grimaces as Tottenham began to gain a foothold in the game. Just as it was possible to believe that the Liverpool opener might have resulted from the influence of a greater authority, there was also a degree of inevitability about the equaliser as if fate was tormenting this great club.
What a piece of theatre this game was, Liverpool rising, falling and rising again, Tottenham a bloody nuisance to any when they put their mind to it. There are six more games like this, myriad torments for Liverpool to endure. They could win them all and not take the title. Or they could fall down and still prevail. We shall all need to lie down when it’s over.