Sport has many different forms, of course – competitive, friendly, amateur, professional – as well as different disciplines of course such as tennis, rugby, basketball and of course football. One thing every sport shares is that it really takes that special something to crown a champion. Patty Berg – record holding female PGA golfer – once stated “what does it take to be a champion? Desire, dedication, determination, concentration and a will to win.” Apt words indeed, and words which could well be applied to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side as they maintained their pursuit of a first-ever Premier League title by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday. The Reds have looked sublime this season, but this game showed a grit and determination lacking in recent years.
For when the chips have been down, Liverpool have often faltered. Take Steven Gerrard’s infamous “slip” in 2014 (in this very fixture) which effectively dealt such a blow to Liverpool’s title bid at such a late stage of the season that they couldn’t recover, and Chelsea wound up taking the crown. The Merseysiders have not since pushed themselves so close to ending their wait for a top flight title, but this year they have kept up the pressure on champions Man City and continued to show that if they can win the league this year, they will have been worthy champions indeed. The ability to beat a fellow top side in such a manner indicates a clear confidence in the team, and shows that they may be less prone to slipping up than they even were in their closest call in living memory.
The game itself hinged on just three minutes early in the second half, when Egyptian superstar Mohamed Salah broke the deadlock against his former club before Sadio Mane fired in a second just two minutes later. Anfield erupted, and Liverpool went on to claim all three points to return to the top of the league table, though their two-point advantage over City still allows the Citizens the initiative as they have a game in hand. While Chelsea would finish the match in fourth in the table, they also had played more games than those directly beneath them – one more than Man Utd and two more than Arsenal, and both sides are within a single win of leapfrogging Eden Hazard and co. into the Champions League spots.
Liverpool keeper Alisson deserves a huge acknowledgement for how solid they have been at the back this season, as do Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson who have both been pure class at the back. The improvement in the “goals against” column, coupled with their dynamism and sheer threat moving forward, means Liverpool have been a frightening prospect for opponents this season, and they have taken that respect and made the most of it, carving it into a title bid that seemed almost unthinkable for anyone other than City moving into the new season back in August. The club deserve real credit for their performances, and while the title race surely still has plenty of twists and turns before the curtain is brought down on the 2018/19 campaign it has absolutely been one of the most entertaining races in years.
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