Mission Accomplished as Liverpool Secure Top Four Finish

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Listen very very carefully and you might hear the faint noise of Liverpool fans co-existing in relative harmony on social media.

That’s because our final day win over Middlesbrough, securing fourth spot, meant that we weren’t busy ripping each other, FSG, Jurgen Klopp, James Milner or the referee to shreds.

This oddly unsettling consensus probably won’t last long with transfer season around the corner and no doubt the knives will be whipped out again, but until then let’s try to embrace the weirdness.

 

The scene was set. A win was all that was needed. We were playing a relegated side with nothing left to offer, so what could possibly go wrong?

But we know the story with Liverpool all too well.

Manchester City and Arsenal, the other two teams in contention, faced Watford and Everton respectively so no favours were to be expected there.

Liverpool started the game nervously with only a goal that could possibly settle the fans and players alike.

But a stagnant first-half display did nothing whatsoever to temper those frayed nerves. To compound the issue, news quickly filtered in of City and Arsenal taking early leads, bumping us into fifth place.

The players may not have been aware of other score lines but the crowd certainly were and it was palpable.

There was a real danger of those anxieties filtering down to the players trying to do their job on the pitch.

It could be something as simple as a cursory glance toward the fans worried faces after a quick shoelace tie that could give the players a hint that all is not well elsewhere.

Middlesbrough did the usual of letting us play by defending deep, hoping we would slip up defensively. And we almost obliged.

 

Dejan Lovren, not content with being number one on Liverpool fans’ most criticised player list, did his best to overtake even himself at the very top of said list when he handled Bamford outside and inside the penalty area bringing the player down.

Referee, Martin Atkinson, either had his vision blocked by Joel Matip or is Dejan’s bestie.

I’m hoping it’s the latter as that’s a much better story.

Whatever the reason, the defender’s blushes were spared and the penalty appeal (and subsequent red card) waved away.

Thankfully, our huge slice of luck came when we needed it the most and now it was time to capitalise on it otherwise what was the point!

 

The tetchy first-half saw many long shots and crosses being desperately attempted from the attack, and it looked like it would stay 0-0 going into the break.

But when you have a Gini in your bottle (yes, it’s old but I like it) it will unleash itself at times.

In stoppage time, up he popped in a puff of smoke to smash home past a flailing Brad Guzan.

Clyne found Firmino whose one touch pass put Wijnaldum through who put Liverpool ahead.

And he’s lucky that he did as Daniel Sturridge had an open goal had Gini chosen to pass it. All’s well that ends well though.

It’s not like I wanted to see the wiggly arms dance one last time at Anfield. Of course I didn’t. No really. Maybe in the second-half…

 

It’s highly possible that during the break the players caught wind of other scores, although it really shouldn’t have mattered as it was in our hands for once. But the sense of urgency was apparent in the second-half.

So much so that within eleven minutes the game was unsalvageable for the visitors.

Sturridge, was instrumental again (after pulling the defenders away to create space for Gini for the first) by winning a free-kick in Phillipe Coutinho-land.

He really doesn’t miss nowadays. Showing as much reliability as Milner on spot-kick duty. A stunning kick into the left side of the goal to send us all into rapturous joy.

Five minutes later, Adam Lallana cemented fourth place with a lovely goal from a Gini-headed assist. Mignolet played his part in the game by saving brilliantly just minutes later adding to his solo knee-slide when Lallana scored.

There’s no doubt that he has been superb the last few months and has been pivotal with his all-round goalkeeping. Round of applause for Migs, everyone.

 

All that was now left was for Sturridge to score (mostly for my own personal satisfaction), and I guess Lucas could have one too as he did replace Firmino to much cheering on possibly his last appearance for Liverpool.

He soon took the captain’s armband when Milner was substituted for Klopp’s resident leper, Moreno, (lets face it he must be if Milner kept him out of the team all season), in what seemed an orchestrated move to send him off in style.

He certainly was looking for a goal as he was found dashing forward into the box. Every touch from the Brazilian near the box elicited shouts of “shoooot” by the crowd.

It became silly, however, when touches deep in his own half were met with the same cries. Come on, he’s no Xabi.

My yearning for a Sturridge goal was left unfulfilled as Klopp substituted the striker for Origi with eight minutes left.

Will we see him again in a Liverpool shirt? I personally hope so but am doubtful. He’s been vital in the last two wins and I can’t hide the fact that I’d be desperately sad if he was told to leave.

 

But enough of my lamenting! We did it and we did it in style.

We asked for a comfortable win and we got it.

A Champions League play-off beckons (which we now know Liverpool will be seeded in), and although this should be the bare minimum for a club like ours, we have to take into account that we have been a fifth/sixth place team for a number of years now.

That’s why this feels like more of an achievement than it should.

Add to that some of the car crashes we’ve had this season whether that be defensively, offensively or injury-wise, it does feels like an achievement with the squad Klopp had at his disposal.

If you want to complain at what could have been that’s ok, but please remember the seventh circle of hell we were in when we couldn’t find a win for love nor money at the start of the year.

Injuries to key players such as Mané, Coutinho, Henderson, Matip and more that affected certain results.

Our knack of giving away cheap goals that lost us a number of points and I’ll add in the lack of transfer activity in January too.

All of these events impacted our season; some in our control and some not.

The point is when all things are considered, Klopp has done very well to get us over the line. Now if he could just start making substitutions a little earlier, we might be on to something here.

Bring on the Champions League.

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