Uh Oh, Here Comes Liverpool
2:31 PM EST on March 5, 2023
This season has not gone well for Liverpool. Even though there are still two months, give or take, to go in the Premier League campaign, the Pool Boys are solidly out of title contention and have already lost five more league games than in all of last season. As recently as Feb. 4, Liverpool had lost four of its previous five games and was languishing in the midtable of England—with only a futile battle for fourth sustaining hope of this being anything but a lost season.
Or so it appeared, anyway. Almost exactly a month after Liverpool's demoralizing 3-0 defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Reds of Merseyside have climbed all the way up to fifth place in the Premier League, just three points behind Tottenham Hotspur with one fewer game played. The crown jewel on this glorious month of Liverpool resurrection, at least in the Premier League, was a 7-0 beat-down Sunday of hated rivals Manchester United in front of a raucous Anfield crowd that sensed something had shifted for the home side.
Sometimes in soccer, you get your ass completely whooped. Other times, it is you who does the whooping of an ass. Liverpool has now lived both ends of that spectrum over the past fortnight, going from a 5-2 collapse in the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid to Sunday's cathartic annihilation of United. Whereas Liverpool went up 2-0 early against Real only to give up five consecutive scores in that Feb. 21 matchup, Sunday's side started off a bit slowly. Though Liverpool controlled most of the possession in the opening 45, United was comfortable breaking into space and putting pressure on a creaky Liverpool backline. Unfortunately for the visitors, they could not turn some decent chances into goals before Liverpool got truly going. Perhaps this is a different game if United scores first.
Instead, though, Cody Gakpo opened the scoreline in the 43rd minute, thanks to a gorgeous through ball from Andy Robertson and a smooth touch to the inside from the Dutchman:
The score stayed 1-0 until halftime, but on the other side of the break, things quickly fell apart for United. Maybe, more accurately, things began going very right for Liverpool, in a way that they perhaps hadn't since the 9-0 thrashing of Bournemouth back in August. The talented front three of Gakpo, Mohamed Salah, and Darwin Núñez had been inconsistent throughout this season, but they all picked the same match to come back to life: Each of the trio scored a brace on Sunday, and the quality of some of those goals was among the best Liverpool has seen this season. Gakpo's second, a chip from close to the right-sided goal post, was maybe the best of them all ...
... and if not, it is only because Salah absolutely rocketed his first in the 66th minute.
Núñez, on the other hand, merely scored two powerful headers; what a slacker to not have scored a worldie! By the time Salah scored his second in the 83rd minute, breaking Liverpool's all-time Premier League goalscoring record in the process, the Anfield crowd was as locked into the celebrations as the United fans in attendance were locked out and heading for the exits.
It's almost too perfect that Roberto Firmino got involved in this particular party: The Brazilian has been a key and beloved part of Liverpool's era of success under Jürgen Klopp, and the report that he would leave the club at the end of his contract this summer was yet another cruel reminder of the passage of time. That he was able to come on and score Liverpool's seventh just days after that report was timely, and the reaction of the Liverpool faithful was a fitting tribute to the club's do-it-all center forward:
In a broader sense, beyond the joy that comes from beating Manchester United so comprehensively, the win on Sunday helps Liverpool grab control of the top four race for a Champions League spot next season. As mentioned above, Liverpool is now just three points back of Tottenham, who lost to Wolves on Saturday, and the Pool Boys have an extra game to play in order to make up that difference. Those two sides still have a game to play against each other at the end of April, which could decide who sneaks into the Champions League and who gets sent off to the Europa League. (Newcastle and Brighton are also in the mix, with the former team only one point back of Liverpool with one fewer game played than the Reds. Brighton is four back with two extra games left to play.)
Regardless of whether Liverpool crashes into the top four party at the end of the year or not, what the team has done in February and through this first weekend of March has saved the domestic season. Just a month ago, it looked like Liverpool's only chance to make the Champions League next year would be to win this year's edition. After the demolition at Real Madrid's hands, that also looked impossible, and the panic alarm started ringing in full for everyone, except maybe the players themselves.
Instead, Liverpool kept winning games—the side only dropped points over the last month in a dull 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace last weekend—and everyone else kept faltering just enough to let the Reds back into the mix. Now, with a 7-0 win on the books against third-place United, Liverpool has roared back to life, which is great news for the club and horrifying news for everyone else in the top half of the Premier League table.