Verdict from Paul Gorst at Anfield after Liverpool’s clash with Chelsea in the Premier League.
Having denied them the post-match show on Sunday, there was no way Jurgen Klopp was going to ignore the Kop once more. Certainly not after this.
After smiting aside Chelsea with the most convincing display of the season so far, Klopp felt duty-bound to follow it up with those trademark fist bumps that stir the soul of the Liverpool faithful. How could he not?
The last few days have been an emotional time for a fanbase still reeling from the bombshell announcement their manager will be walking away from the club he has transformed over much of the last decade.
But while the last few days have been squarely about the man who has been responsible for so many of the good times here since October 2015, supporters must once more hunker down and grant the wish of their charismatic, talismanic leader. For the next couple of months at least.
Because with so much still to play for at Anfield, the Premier League leaders, who regained their five-point advantage with this 4-1 win, can ill-afford to do without his news overtaking the pursuit of four trophies as the main theme of the campaign. Certainly not when genuine progress is being made for a team now well ahead of its schedule.
How the news affects the players will only really become known in the coming weeks but this was a massive indication that it will only make them more determined to push on to perhaps even the greatest heights of the Klopp era.
Clearly, the Reds boss himself has not been waylaid by what is to come later this year. If anything, he has been emboldened by the sense of finality and should the players harness something similar, as they undoubtedly did here, then they will really take some stopping between now and May.
Their pressing was key to the opener as the brilliant Conor Bradley stepped in to win it back high up the pitch before supplying Diogo Jota who scored a goal of pure belligerence, barging his way through then sliver of the space between Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiadshile before smashing home.
That was just the start for Bradley though. The Northern Ireland international registered his first senior goal for the Reds with a stunning finish that flashed across the overworked Djordje Petrovic after space had opened up down Chelsea’s left.
Chelsea began to wear the sort of haunted looks that so many opposition players have had painted across their faces down the years here when the wind has taken the hosts and the hapless duo of Badiashile and Axel Disasi illustrated it perfectly when the former conceded a penalty for a foul on Jota after the latter had slipped trying to cut out a ball for Virgil van Dijk.
Liverpool’s harrying and hounding of what is the most expensive midfield pairing of all time in Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo – who were signed for a combined £225m – was a joy to watch at times. Neither were given time on the ball and were made to look like footballers whose price tags were much more modest.
That, in fact, goes for just about every player in Chelsea blue; the grotesque experiment that has been the Todd Boehly ownership to date is taking them nowhere.
And a penny for Caicedo’s thoughts, in particular, as he was subbed shortly after Liverpool had made it 3-0 to a chorus of hearty boos. He must regret that summer decision to move to Stamford Bridge daily.
What an aghast Chelsea legend John Terry, who was watching on from the away end, made of it all as his team’s defenders folded like cheap deck chairs would have made for an interesting listen in the Anfield Road end also.
Mauricio Pochettino might have been forgiven for getting a kit and a pair of boots across to him for the second half. That’s if he hadn’t already caught the next train to Euston at the break. Few would have blamed him as Liverpool tore their visitors to shreds.
Darwin Nunez, who was in full Captain Chaos mode throughout, handed the Londoners a brief reprieve by striking the post from the penalty. A powerful second-half header also hit the woodwork to bring that tally for the evening up to four, which was the most in a Premier League game since Opta records began.
It’s difficult to be overly critical of the otherwise in-form Uruguayan but if he took the easier, more presentable chances that pop up for him with more regularity, his goal tally would swell considerably. His stunning assist for Luis Diaz late on made up for it.
Bradley’s sensational performance continued when his arrowed cross was headed home by Dominik Szoboszlai for 3-0. The Kop burst into a rendition of ‘There’s Only One Conor Bradley’ as the young Irishman was congratulated by his colleagues.
It might have been one of its first-ever airings, but it won’t be the last time we hear that chant on this evidence. After five successive starts the biggest compliment you can pay Bradley is that Trent Alexander-Arnold, a second-half sub here, might not walk back into the side.
The end game is nearing for Klopp but with it all still to play for, quite literally at Anfield, that prospect must somehow be pushed to the backburner for now. The ability to do so might just make all the difference and this was just about the perfect start, fist bumps and all.
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