In Anfield’s away section, the Nottingham Forest supporters unfurled a banner to show their solidarity with the victims and survivors of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and also to call for an end to the disgusting chants about this tragedy.
Poignantly, the banner was symbolically deployed at 3:06 p.m. on this Saturday spring afternoon… very classy touch from the Forest fans that drew applause from all around the stadium.
However, on the pitch, there was much less leeway for sentiment as the players professionally went on with their business.
Liverpool bagged the 3 points after a hard-fought match against a Forest side battling relegation and despite the away team coming back… twice.
The team sheets hinted to a carbon copy of the tactics employed in the reverse fixture last October when the Reds were foiled by a solitary goal from Taiwo Awoniyi, ironically a former Liverpool player.
Forest manager Steve Cooper, himself formerly in charge of Liverpool’s academy, tried to repeat the ploy of putting a very compact and defensive side in front of the Reds, leaving it to the home team to ask the questions and to keep knocking at the door.
That’s what exactly happened during the entire first-half. Liverpool had an astounding 86% of possession but still nothing to show for on the score board.
And this despite Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deliveries from set-pieces which nearly resulted in Liverpool goals by Virgil Van Dijk, Iboue Konaté and Diogo Jota.
The first-half overarching verdict was that of a kick-about in midfield with Liverpool failing to break down an obdurate Forest which had 5 players in the defence back line, 4 as defensive midfielders and only one upfront who was after all, spending most of the time in his own half.
More of this after the break?
Jurgen Klopp’s pep talk at half-time yielded immediate results with Jota’s header opening the score on the 47th from a Trent corner and a Fabinho headed assist.
This immediately opened the game into much more enthralling territory and one minute later, Alisson Becker was called to save a ferocious long-range shot from Morgan Gibbs-White.
If Taiwo Awoniyi and Steve Cooper have Liverpool antecedents, it would be a third Reds alumnus to equalise for Forest. Neco Williams found himself in acres of space down his right flank and his shot was deflected off Andy Robertson into the net.
In a recent past, we’ve seen the Liverpool players getting mentally discouraged to the point of abdication after suffering such setbacks.
Not this time.
The comeback against Arsenal a fortnight ago and the six away goals scored against Leeds last Monday seemed to have brought back belief in the Reds camp.
It took less than 5 minutes for Liverpool to restore the lead, courtesy of another set-piece.
A Robbo delivery from the left found a curiously unmarked Jota who had all the time in the world to control with his chest and then knee before volleying-in with his left foot.
Four goals (two right footed, one left and one header) in two consecutive matches for the Portuguese after a drought of 12 months because of a long injury spell. Time to get him back in your Fantasy Manager team?
However, credit to Forest to keep this now enthralling afternoon going as they battle for their Premier League survival.
Their long throw-ins have been incessant problems to Liverpool and one on the 67th led them to equalise for the second time.
Alisson Becker had mis-kicked into an unnecessary throw-in and the second ball from the ensuing action saw a Gibbs-White volley rifling into the bottom corner after a deflection off Konaté.
Liverpool now needed something special to shake off this persistently stubborn Forest side. And there can hardly be anything more special than our Egyptian King.
Until then, Mo Salah had been practically anonymous as he was receiving the close attention from not one, not two but three Forest players whenever he got the ball.
However, 3 minutes after the visitors had equalised, he had a sniff of a chance and he took it big time from a Trent free-kick.
A traditional delivery from the Scouser… Salah evaded the offside trap and edged ahead of the Forest defenders despite an attempted bear hug from one of them, before sliding the ball in.
Surely Steve Cooper’s side won’t come back from this yet again in the remaining 20 minutes. But they tried.
An Awoniyi overhead kick flew just above while Brennan Johnson hit the cross bar (again from another dreaded long throw-in).
This showed Liverpool were not at their optimum defensively although Konaté carried on with his now usual self, acting as a rampart that’s hard to go through.
Noticeably, all Liverpool goals had come from set-pieces delivered by Robbo and our seemingly new midfield maestro, Trent.
This was not the swaggering display against Leeds of four days before. But we’ll readily take the 3 points, never mind the manner of.
In the space of one week, Liverpool have atoned for last October’s aberrations against Leeds and Forest.
Fingers crossed we can build on this trend of now 4 undefeated matches. At least, let’s give Spurs and Newcastle a run for their money in the final push for a top 4 finish.