Fitting moment for Brazilian who’s endured so much turmoil this year
WHEN the story of this bizarre football season is written into the history books, a special place will be reserved for Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Now I know I’m biased and my Liverpool goggles are firmly planted on the bridge of my nose as I write this, but his incredible goal against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday has a touch a fate about it.
After all the heartache he has been through with the tragic death of his father and the agony of not being allowed to attend the funeral, it felt like someone was looking down on him as he went forward for that 95th-minute corner at The Hawthorns.
I was doing the match commentary for Liverpool’s website and in scenes similar to those many of you may have witnessed when my emotions got the better of me on the night of the famous comeback against Barcelona in the 2019 Champions League semi-final, I slightly lost it once again when that goal went in.
Yet that is the kind of moment we live for as football fans.
It was raw, tearful joy from a man who has had his world turned upside down and you could see from the reaction of all the players that they loved sharing the moment with Ali.
He is a top fella, so popular in the dressing room and the lads have helped him through some of the toughest months of his life, so that goal meant so much.
It was also the first time Liverpool have scored a goal from a corner since the last-minute winner against Tottenham in December and in the 29 matches they have played since, I reckon they have had at least 250 corners.
Liverpool have not even come close to scoring until the goalkeeper came up and showed the outfield players how to do it with a header that was as good as any you will see in the circumstances.
That goal could be worth up to £100m to Liverpool if they qualify for next season’s Champions League and have a long run in the competition, with the significance of being in UEFA’s main competition not just financial.
Top players will always want to come to Liverpool, but they will also want to be playing Champions League football and that goal has kept that target in sight heading into the final two games of the season against Burnley tomorrow night and Crystal Palace on Sunday.
The race for a top-four finish will take a big twist tonight when Chelsea play Leicester at Stamford Bridge and it is hard to know what result will be the best outcome for Liverpool.
A draw or a defeat for Chelsea would mean Jurgen Klopp’s side could move ahead of the Blues with a win at Burnley.
That outcome would also be a hammer blow to a Chelsea side that lost the FA Cup final against Leicester on Saturday, with all the momentum they have built up since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as manager in danger of being lost.
I suspect Chelsea will win tonight, as they will be desperate to get revenge on a Leicester side that should have had a big party after what was a wonderful FA Cup win on Saturday.
Whatever the result at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool are fortunate to be in a position where their Champions League fate is in their own hands and three key men will hold the key to their hopes.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino had enough chances to win the game at West Brom long before Alisson’s incredible heroics at the end, yet that has been the story all season.
Forget the defensive injuries that have clearly undermined Liverpool’s efforts, the bigger problem for me has been at the other end.
Salah, Mane and Fimrino have all been fit for most of the season and they just haven’t performed as we know they can, with the chances all three have missed week after week costing Liverpool time and again.
Salah has scored 31 goals in all competitions this season, but he could easily have gone past the 50 mark if he had taken the clear-cut openings that have come his way.
These are not half-chances, like the one Salah scored against West Brom on Sunday, but big goal-scoring moments that a player of his calibre should be taking.
The same is true of Mane and Firmino, who have missed so many opportunities in front of goal that you would have expected them to take.
The front three need to be more clinical in these final two league games or else Liverpool might not get the two wins they need and I also feel Fabinho has a big role in the Burnley game.
They will be pumping long balls into the box and it will test Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, so Fabinho needs to be their infield captain to shepherd them through the game.
Win at Burnley and you would fancy Liverpool to beat Palace in front of 10,000 fans at Anfield on Sunday, but the West Brom game confirmed that nothing is predictable with this team right now.
It has been painful to watch football in empty, echoing stadiums this season, but we got a glimpse of our collective future in last Saturday’s wonderful FA Cup final at Wembley.
The cheers of real fans were a delight to hear and the joy we saw from Leicester’s players, manager Brendan Rodgers and their supporters warmed the heart. That’s what football is all about and it reminded anyone who has questioned the FA Cup’s standing that it is still a very special competition.
Spectators are returning to Premier League grounds this week and I’m increasingly optimistic that we are on our way out of this horrible Covid-19 crisis.
People who don’t want to take the vaccine can do their own thing and the rest of us will hopefully get back to living our lives in a sensible manner.
And won’t it be great to get back to watching live sport in perosn soon?
I can’t wait.