Liverpool produced their best performance of the season yesterday. The Reds defeated the reigning champions, played really well and made it happen despite preparations far from ideal. The 2-1 win versus Manchester City at Anfield was another enjoyable step towards a top four finish in the league. And behind it all was magician Philippe Coutinho and his copycats Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen.
I was optimistic ahead of the game, mostly due to our recent previous displays at home against Man City and our fine matches in the league in recent weeks. At the same time I was afraid that our strenous trip to Turkey in midweek would be costly and make us tire at the end of the game. But instead Liverpool was the far more alert side in the closing stages, despite having at least 48 hours less than Man City to recover. In fact, our pressing and aggression was more intense in the final quarter than during the rest of the match. It was good on the whole, fantastic in the last 15 minutes. After Philippe Coutinho´s magnificent goal the Reds were marvellously determined to keep City at bay.
The performance was almost a perfect one. The passing was crisp and often going forward. The defensive work oustanding all over the pitch. And the creativity on a maximum level. The only thing missing was more telling final balls. But it didn´t matter. Man City closed the gaps pretty well at the back but then the Reds took to long range shooting. The two goals were out of this world.
We have learned that Philippe Coutinho can unleash these kind of incredible strikes, it was his third in a short time. But it was a bit of a surprise that Jordan Henderson also had it in his toolbox. His opener was even harder and more wellplaced than Coutinho´s. More Coutinho-esque than a shot from the real Phil.
Joe Allen was also in Coutinho-esque mood. He wiggled and swerved his body in the process conning opponents before hitting inch-perfect passes. Just like Coutinho does. Perhaps Henderson has studied Philippe´s shooting and Allen his moves.
If Coutinho was man of the match then Allen wasn´t far behind. It was his best effort in the red shirt. Aswell as keeping the ball in the team and often finding teammates in fine attacking positions he also constantly broke up play and stifled City playmaker David Silva. Both Coutinho and Allen proves that you don´t have to be big to be a great footballer.
Last season it was a privilege to watch the goal exploits from Luis Suarez. This season it´s even more pleasant to see the magic and football expertise from Philippe Coutinho. Besides his clever moves, feints, excellent passing and game intelligence he has now added another ingridient, the long range shot. This will make him even harder to handle for opponents and produce even more entertainment for us fans. Let´s hope he keeps it up and even improves then Liverpool will rise in the table and best of all, his prize will rise to heights where not even Barcelona or Real Madrid can afford him.
A funny thing about Philippe´s winner yesterday is that after the match against Southampton, where he scored a similar goal, I urged him in an entry on the blog to do the same against Man City and hopefully have the winner. And he did. Maybe he is reading this blog. :)
The win against Man City was a prestigious one but gave us nothing more than three points (and perhaps more self-confidence). But the Reds must come down from cloud nine in a hurry, on Wednesday we face relegation strugglers Burnley and it takes a 100 percent effort to down them aswell. If overconfidence creeps in, then we are in trouble. Three points against Burnley are as valuable as the three we gained yesterday. If we slip up then both Manchester United and Arsenal can pull away further. We are close to them now, just 2-3 points behind, next step is to overtake them, not lose ground.
Here are my ratings for the Reds who participated in the 27th league match of the season (on a scale from 1 to 10):
GK Simon Mignolet 6.
Insecure in the beginning but recovered well and overall a steady game.
RB Emre Can 5.
A good defensive display but not so effective going forward.
CB Martin Skrtel 7.
Majestic in the air and strong in the tackle.
LB Dejan Lovren 4.
Started a little shaky but grew into the match. Must improve his passing.
RWB Lazar Markovic 2.
Wasted the ball too often but did a decent job defensively.
CM Joe Allen 8.
A top effort. Hit numerous perfect passes and won the ball a lot.
DM Jordan Henderson 7.
Started slowly but soon enough he was the boss in midfield.
LWB Alberto Moreno 4.
Not so dangerous in attack as he has been. Quite good in defence.
RF Adam Lallana 7.
Was all over the pitch creating and worked hard throughout. Unlucky not to score.
CF Raheem Sterling 5.
Seemed a lot sharper than in recent times but can do better.
LF Philippe Coutinho 9.
Fantastic display capped with excellent passing and a beautiful winner. Involved in everything for 90 minutes.
CF Daniel Sturridge 3. (Replaced Lazar Markovic after 76 mins).
Is slowly improving. Missed a sitter when he should have scored.
RB Kolo Toure 4. (Replaced Alberto Moreno after 83 mins).
Came in and made the defence even more impregnable.
Liverpool is slowly but surely climbing the table and is now in fifth place. In a few weeks we have passed West Ham, Southampton and Tottenham. Next challenge is to leapfrog Arsenal and Manchester United. If we can stay in this mood and form then it´s a distinct possibility. Just to make sure:
We Go Again.