Image Credit- Liverpool FC
When Christian Pulisic skipped past Benjamin Mendy and slotted the ball into the Manchester City net on Thursday evening, anticipation in Liverpool, already palpable on the city’s streets, began to swell.
These hopes were, for a time, deflated by a stunning free kick courtesy of Kevin De Bruyne, until Willian’s penalty drew Chelsea into a 2-1 lead with a mere twelve minutes to play. Then the excitement reached fever pitch. Liverpool Football Club would be crowned Premier League champions that night.
Such has been Liverpool’s dominance in the league over the past twelve months, the final push for the title held the danger of becoming a formality, so vast is the gulf in quality between them and their opposition. Twenty-three points separate The Reds and their closest adversaries – a gap that
could only grow before the seasons close.
Nevertheless, Thursday still sparked wild celebration on Merseyside. Anfield was the focal point, the temple around which the worshippers gathered. The cacophony of car horns, a lingering glow from flares, and above all else raucous and elated singing, were all symptomatic of a cathartic release of emotion, pent up for so long, and by so many.
It has been an agonising wait. No one could have predicted in 1990 that Liverpool, boasting John Barnes, Ian Rush and Alan Hansen in the playing squad, would be deprived of a league title for so long, particularly in light of their unrivalled supremacy in the 70’s and 80’s.
In the bleak years to follow, Manchester United, under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, have surged past them, now holding the mantle of most English League Titles won. The likes of Blackburn Rovers – and more recently Leicester City – have ascended to the top before Liverpool could reclaim their crown.
This pain has been rendered all the more acute by the opportunities that were not to be capitalised upon. The “Spice Boys” of the 90’s, despite the attractive, eye catching football they exhibited on the pitch, were perpetual underachievers. Rafael Benitez brought Liverpool within touching distance of the title in 2009, beating their rivals 4-0 at Old Trafford, yet only to fall four points short come the seasons end.
Brendan Roger’s team of the 2013/14 season, spearheaded by the goals of Luis Suárez, were felled agonisingly close to the finish line. Steven Gerrard’s ignominious slip remains indelibly etched into the collective conscious of Liverpool supporters. Even last years herculean effort of Ninety-seven
points, losing just one game all season, was not enough to overturn Guardiola’s city, pipping Liverpool to the post by a solitary point.
And yet, in the same way these memories have inflicted pain over the past three decades, they make this week’s successes all the more enjoyable. There can be no doubt the Jurgen Klopp’s team are deserved winners. The stats do the talking: Liverpool have kept the most clean sheets, have the
best defensive record and have not lost at Anfield in the Premier League for more than three years.
Indeed, their last home loss came to Crystal Palace – the team they so comprehensively dismantled on Wednesday with style and efficiency that Klopp has instilled in his players.
Perhaps the most important thing the German manager has brought to the club is the sense of team camaraderie and spirit that is so evident among players and staff. High spirits and buoyant morale off the pitch inevitably lead to success on it. It would be difficult to find a team among the current
Premier League cohort that are as tight knit as this squad.
It is these close bonds that will give Liverpool’s fans hope for future success. There is no discontent among the players, support for the manager is unwavering and the club’s owners continue to lay the groundwork for long term stability and success. Worryingly for their rivals, Liverpool’s upwards
trajectory looks set only to continue. We will all be watching expectantly to see what future triumphs lie ahead.