Premier League title agony will sting but this campaign can still be remembered as one of Liverpool’s greatest… now go and conquer Europe
- Liverpool missed out on the Premier League title by just one point this season
- But they still have the opportunity to win the Champions League next month
- They take on Spurs in the final in their final opportunity to pick up silverware
- If they do that, this campaign will still be remembered as one of Liverpool’s best
It was in the 66th minute, just after the news they had been dreading arrived from the South Coast, that a chant began rolling around Anfield.
‘We’ve been to PSG and Napoli; Belgrade, Germany!’ they sang, to the tune of Rotterdam by The Beautiful South. ‘And when we went to the Allianz, Liverpool scored three! Porto, Barcelona… who you trying to kid! We’re the Mighty Liverpool and we’re going to Madrid! We’re going to Madrid!’
The tone was set for the final period of a quite remarkable season. With Manchester City forging into a 3-1 lead (that would soon become 4-1), Liverpool’s supporters retrained their focus on the prize that, should they be able to lift it, would provide more than just hefty compensation.
Liverpool missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester City by just one point
There was clear dejection on the faces of a number of their players after the final whistle
Supporters may have been casting their gaze to the showdown with Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano, bellowing before the final whistle about the team ‘that’s gonna win the European Cup’, but it will take time for the squad to be in tune with that thinking.
Losing out by a point in a title race in which they barely took a false step is going to sting Liverpool’s players for the next few days. You could see at the final whistle, when Virgil van Dijk, James Milner and goalkeeper Alisson Becker hugged each other that they needed some comfort.
On the lap of honour a few moments later, Jordan Henderson carried his two daughters, Elexa and Alba, but you knew in his heart of hearts he wanted to carry the Premier League trophy to parade in front of The Kop. He couldn’t have done any more during this relentless quest. Nobody could.
Things went a step further when Jurgen Klopp entered the media auditorium. There was no megawatt smiling and just one off-the-cuff quip in relation to the Golden Boot race, which ended up shared by Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
It will take time for the squad to be in tune with optimism around winning Champions League
‘Ah,’ he said, with one glint. ‘All of my players!’ In general, though, Klopp buried his head under his black baseball cap and his tone was solemn and there was no consolation to be taken from another unbeaten season at Anfield or the fact Alisson had won the Golden Glove or that Van Dijk was the PFA Player of the Year.
There is no way other way to dress it up: second means nothing. The platitudes and the praise along the way are nice but winning is what really matters. The one point that separated themselves from Manchester City at 5pm would have felt like 1000 miles.
They should not dwell on this disappointment, however, for too long.
On June 1, they have an opportunity that seven days ago would not have even been on their minds. You would not have predicted Liverpool having a place in the Champions League final last Monday in the same way you would not have said 97 points would not have been enough to win the title.
There were no consolations to be garnered from the individual honours their players won
But when they trampled all over Barcelona, with that staggering 4-0 win, Liverpool opened up the possibility of winning a piece of silverware that is just as much a part of the club’s fabric as the league title. Europe has regularly enlivened this club and it can do so again.
Had Liverpool tumbled out of the Champions League, you can guarantee the final 30 minutes of this test against Wolves – and it was a test, be clear on that – would have been played out in atmosphere that was flat, listless and subdued. But that win over Barcelona has changed everything.
Andy Robertson insisted that Liverpool now have to be ready to take on Tottenham in Madrid
Suddenly, they have the potential to conquer Europe – how many teams across the continent would happily swap places with them and Tottenham next month? – and if that mission is successful, the campaign will be remembered as one of the greatest in Liverpool’s history.
‘Let’s get ready for it because it is another fantastic achievement that we have got to back-to-back finals,’ said Andy Robertson.
‘We fell short last season (against Real Madrid) so we have to make sure we don’t do that again but we know how hard it will be. Let’s look forward to it.’
Robertson is a naturally chirpy character and he recognised the need to be positive. Liverpool’s crowd recognised it as soon as the title had gone – all is not lost. Madrid, and all its wonderful potential, beckons.
Madrid, and all its wonderful potential, beckons for Jurgen Klopp and his players