Liverpool turn up the heat as Anfield rediscovers its chest-thumping swagger
One-nil victories come in all shapes and sizes.
Midweek, Liverpool looked very much like a side struggling to rekindle their former, high-octane grandeur as they made hard of work of disposing a Fulham team with little to play for.
What will have grated those in attendance on Wednesday night most was the timing of such a flat performance, just four days after producing one of those gripping, last-minute wins that had Jurgen Klopp thumping his chest to the Mersey Beat after the match.
Even though the top four are still very much within reach, these final few games this campaign are the start of a rather long pre-season looking ahead to next term, given what has unfolded in a dramatic fall from grace for the quadruple chasers.
Liverpool therefore needed to rebuild that momentum against Brentford to stoke the fire on the stalled Anfield juggernaut. While the result was the same as against another west London team on Saturday, the manner of the performance, while still showing plenty of hard-to-eradicate flaws, was very different indeed.
It was not quite, to borrow the Eric Cantona analogy, chests stuck out as if they owned the place, but, if only in fleeting moments, Liverpool rediscovered some swagger, on the perfect afternoon to do so, as Anfield itself again made it perfectly clear they are happy to operate against the grain.
Liverpool had been backed into a corner by the Premier League, who “strongly advised” all clubs to play the national anthem on coronation day, even though they still allowed matches to take place at the same time as all the pageantry in the capital, abdicating any responsibility over making a mark of respect themselves.
Everyone knew it was coming. There were chants in midweek explaining where the coronation could be directed as a pre-requisite. The boos were so loud when the national anthem was played out of the Anfield speakers on Saturday it was not even clear it had started.
To be clear, this is not any statement of disrespect towards the monarchy itself. This is ill-feeling and disenchantment with the establishment, given what Liverpudlians have been through in the Margaret Thatcher era and beyond.
There was one difference this time around, however. Following the forced airing of ‘God Save the King’, a booming rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ took us up to kick off as Liverpool and its people had the final say.
The first-half goalscorer who set Liverpool on their way to a sixth successive league victory - one that puts them just one point behind Manchester United in fourth, albeit having played two games more - was a rather familiar one.
Mohamed Salah will score better than his close-range finish that he needed two goes at in the 13th minute, but it does not matter when you score the sheer volume of goals the Egyptian does.
Salah became the first player in Liverpool history to score in nine successive games at Anfield in all competitions, with his opener his 100th goal at the famous stadium.
But what makes him a true, undisputed great is consistency – the real difference between the great and the good. This is the third successive season that Salah has scored at least 30 goals in all competitions and his fourth time in six seasons overall. Since 2020-21, Kylian Mbappe is the only other player to score 30 or more goals in all competitions among players in the big five European leagues. He now sits fifth in the all-time Liverpool goalscoring charts, level with Steven Gerrard.
That early strike settled the nerves and with the shackles off, Liverpool could express themselves once more – something conspicuous by its absence too often this season.
There were sumptuous Trent Alexander-Arnold chips over the top, one-two zipping passes between the front three, Cody Gakpo rampaging through the middle. Even Virgil van Dijk audacious efforts from distance. The confidence was back.
The fact Liverpool did not put the game to bed, especially from further chances after the break shows how much work there is to do, and as the game went on, those nerves reappeared, leaving the hosts to hold onto their lead in the dying embers.
But, without fear of reprisal, we can safely say a corner has finally been turned. Liverpool are on the way back. The establishment better watch out.