The final game of last season still had a little something on it as kick off approached.. a game which meant it actually had players showing effort as opposed to taking it light, waiting to board a plane to sunnier climes or in other players cases, to head off to Russia for a World Cup campaign. With the focus squarely on the Champions League run, results in the league had ensured that Liverpool still had to stay professional and guarantee their participation in the competition next season.
As the sun and heat soaked Anfield, delighting supporters before a ball had been kicked, you could not escape the excitement that captured the fans heading to the game on Sunday as the 13th May that meant it was 13 more days to wait until Liverpool once again competed in a Champions League Final…against the all-time record holders Real Madrid, a side who lost to the Reds in the 1981 encounter in Paris.
Eyes were quite firmly fixed on Mo Salah as his failure to add to his goals in recent league outings meant he still required that 1 goal to become the highest scorer in a 38-game Premier League season, eclipsing the man he would face in Kiev, Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as the competitions top scorer Alan Shearer and not forgetting a certain Uruguayan with a penchant for biting, who like Salah produced an electricity within the support in a phenomenal way. The record finally went to the man sweeping up awards like a Dyson or G-Tech when despite Mane in particular being in great positions to score, the goal eluded the home side until the ball broke and the Egyptian King finally opened the scoring with some supporters already beaming at the news that Rafa Benitez had got his Newcastle side in front against the only side capable of claiming the Top 4 position, Chelsea.
But it was the next goal in the game that meant the most for me in a small sense of the word. As with anybody who truly knows me, I’m somebody who is very much statistical especially when it comes to going to the match following the reds. After Sadio Mane delayed a pass that would have surely seen Salah make it 2-0 quickly after his first and wave after wave of Liverpool pressure came banging at the Brighton door, Andy Robertson, who earlier in the season found himself very much a spectator but now his name was imprinted on the teamsheet each week, delivered a perfect ball to which the much maligned Dejan Lovren perfectly timed his run and executed his leap and connected with the ball with a bullet header and scored at Anfield for the first time since his famous injury time winner against Dortmund. Dejan has scored since that game but all have been in away games in the south of the country at Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth. In a weird similarity his only other league goal of the season came as the 2nd goal in a 4-0 win in that match at Dean Court/The Vitality Stadium.
In terms of personal statistics though, that header on 40 minutes was the 250th Liverpool goal scored in matches I have attended over the years and the 5th time in total I have seen Lovren score and they have all come at Anfield and all have been headers. The first time was when he was at Southampton and scored the only goal in 1-0 win for the side that almost got relegated this season, where I was behind the Anfield Road end goal that day and the Match of the Day cameras caught my look of despair as the Croatian headed in as Liverpool’s run of victories at the start of the 2013/14 season came to an end. Dortmund in a 4-0 friendly win, a late winner against Swansea in the League Cup in a game where we also saw a rare Mario Balotelli goal as the reds secured a late comeback to progress in the League Cup. I was also there when he scored his most famous Liverpool goal as Lovren rose highest to head home as progression towards another European final was taken and cameras then caught me in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the shirt of the match-winner for the memorabilia collection, and of course the 5th time being in the impressive end of season victory.
It was also great to see Dominic Solanke finally get his first Liverpool goal and you could see what it meant to him, he may have scored in pre-season but to do it in the league for Liverpool is special. Andy Robertson then got his first goal as well reacting quickly to hammer in the 4th and cap off a wonderful debut season and a dramatic turnaround from the earlier parts of the season referred to further up the page. The only disappointment being that had Brighton not elected to make Liverpool attack the Kop in the first half then those maiden goals for the boys would have come in front of the Kop but here’s to that happening next season.
This post cannot end without sending a huge congratulations to Salah who claimed the Golden Boot and on the lap of honour, the Golden Samba, as well as numerous accolades throughout the season as the so called Chelsea reject had the last laugh. Here’s to another record breaking season for the Egyptian next campaign.. who knows, he’ll probably have his own album of chants by then.