The Podium: Our three favourite things from Liverpool’s emphatic 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace at Anfield.
That felt absolutely great, didn’t it?
After such a long and anxious wait to watch Liverpool finally play again, it’s fair to say Sunday’s Merseyside derby was a bit of a damp squib. Liverpool were back, but it wasn’t really the team we recognise – and understandably so, given it was their first competitive action in over 100 days.
Despite the mammoth points gap, there was some palpable anxiety heading into this one against Crystal Palace, mostly out of a burning desire to get this thing done and dusted as soon as humanly possible. They’ve been awkward opponents for Liverpool in the past, and arrived at Anfield in decent enough shape, too, having won their previous four Premier League games without conceding a goal (albeit three of those being before the break in play).
A tight, attritional affair was generally expected. A scrappy 1-0 would’ve been just fine, three points being the only thing that mattered. Liverpool, though, had different ideas, swatting the visitors aside with a swagger fully befitting of their status as champions elect, taking themselves to the brink of the holy grail.
Here’s three of our favourite takeaways from the game to take their place on the podium…
Gold: The real Fabinho is well and truly back
Oh yes, now that’s what the real Fabinho looks like. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Over six months now, in truth. Ever since returning from his ankle injury in January, we’ve not really seen anything like the all-conquering general who could reasonably lay claim to being the world’s finest defensive midfielder throughout the calendar year of 2019.
After a rusty start, he was one of Liverpool’s better performers against Everton in the first game back, but still, nowhere near the imperious Fabinho we know he can be. Here, though, the very best version exploded back on to the scene in spectacular style with a display so dominant in every department it almost feels ridiculous to describe him purely as a “defensive midfielder”. Indeed, there were shades of Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerrard on show here.
Sure, he was doing plenty of hoovering up off the ball, extending his telescopic legs to steal back possession and continually put Liverpool on the front foot, but the sheer quality of his dinked through ball for Mohamed Salah’s goal was just outrageous – vision, technique and pin-point precision all bundled into one sumptuous flick of the right boot.
Then he goes and pings one in from 30-yards out with barely any back lift whatosever, arrowed just as straight into the corner as his piledriver against Manchester City earlier this season. You could see in his face exactly what it meant.
Liverpool’s lighthouse, as Pep Lijnders would say, is shining bright once more.
Silver: The Kop looking simply magnificent
The first competitive game back at Anfield was always going to be a slightly strange occasion, and there was more than a tinge of sadness about You’ll Never Walk Alone being played out across the mostly empty stadium.
But the work done by Spion Kop 1906 and others to dress the Kop up with such a vibrant array of flags and banners this week was magnificent, creating a proud visual display of Liverpool’s heritage to brighten up the occasion and provide the players with an extra layer of familiarity in what is obviously a far from ideal situation.
We’ve seen Premier League clubs covering vacant seats with various generic banners since the restart, plastered with corporate sponsors – and Liverpool had these too – but to see the Kop decked out so resplendently was a magnificent sight to behold, creating a unique backdrop for iconic images which will mark Liverpool’s imminent title triumph and trophy lift in the weeks ahead.
Bronze: Mamadou Sakho’s eternal entertainment value
Even though it feels like a totally different era entirely, it’s really not that long ago that Sakho was still playing for Liverpool, oscillating between the sublime and the ridiculous almost on a weekly basis.
Here we were treated to a real throwback to the Frenchman’s penchant for self-inflicted calamity, inexplicably doing that thing where he decides to try and backheel flick his way out of danger on the edge of his own box while surrounded by three of the most dangerous forwards on the planet.
There’s something thrilling about his Bambi-on-ice style, constantly teetering on the brink of disaster, but occasionally capable of doing something really rather good. Then he decides to play a no-look hospital back pass to his goalkeeper with precisely zero spatial awareness of anything going on around him, because why not?
Must do better: VAR
It feels pedantic to be slaughtering VAR after a 4-0 win, but come on. Liverpool were denied two very credible penalty claims in the first-half, but apparently it’s absolutely fine to man-hug Virgil van Dijk to prevent him jumping for a header, or block a Roberto Firmino flick using your arm.
What’s the point in having the technology if you’re just going to wave these things away because you’d rather not undermine the referee’s original decision? Thankfully, it made scant difference on this occasion. But still. Sort it out.
- culled from liverpool.com