For a last match of the season in which the fate of both teams had already been signed, sealed and dusted for some time…
For a match in which both teams had nothing additional to play for…
For a match in which both teams had long put the ending season behind them and already set their sight on the next campaign…
Well, that 4-4 was really bonkers.
Perhaps a great game for the neutral and a flashy advert for the Premier League.
But for Liverpool it was also a reflection of this unusual season that oscillated between emphatic wins which we’ll remember for the rest of our lives (Bournemouth, Man Utd) and abysmal displays which we cannot wait to forget (Brighton, Wolves).
The Reds bolted out of the starting gates and were already two-nil up before the quarter of the hour.
Admittedly, the home side gifted us the first goal on the 10 th minute as they played with fire by casually kicking the ball around in their own penalty box. Romeo Lavia’s pass eventually came up short and Diogo Jota duly obliged and tapped in from 10 yards out.
Five minutes later, the big Red Army contingent got what they have been traveling for: a Bobby Firmino farewell goal. A brilliant one to boot.
Fellow Brazilian Fabinho laid the ball to him at the edge of the box and our Number 9 cleverly feigned a shot to take out 2 Southampton players. He then carried on a little bit forward and the coast was clear for him to slot past Alex McCarthy.
Yet another great game intelligence that Firmino has been spoiling us with for the past 8 seasons.
Having scored 7 past Man Utd and 9 against Bournemouth, it would have been a nice fit if Liverpool could win this last match of the season by 8 and they looked well on their way of doing so.
So we dreamt
However, in November’s reverse fixture, Southampton were not shy at having a go at Anfield. This time, they were not shy at staging a comeback and caught a Liverpool which had by now strangely switched to an underwhelming mood that brought flashbacks of the awful January-February period.
On the 19 th minute, Carlos Alcaraz dazzled while twinkle toeing in front of Liverpool’s defence line before leaving it for James Ward-Prowse to curl it from 12 yards out. Quite a great move that could even make our Brazilian players nod with approval.
Ten minutes later, Firmino lost possession in midfield and Southampton pounced a counter-attack that saw Kamladeen Sulemana equalizing the score by brushing the ball past Caoimhin Kelleher.
By that moment, Jurgen Klopp was furious on the touchline. It might be a game with nothing at stake but for the manager, there was still the issue of losing possession that he absolutely does not wish to carry into next season.
Saving the best for last
Just after half-time, the same Sulemana scored perhaps the home team’s goal of the season. Running two-thirds
of the pitch in the central channel from deep inside Southampton’s territory, he then latched a well aimed shot
from the edge of the penalty box into the corner of the net.
Unbelievably, no Liverpool player made a full-hearted attempt to stop his quite direct run. Were we re-living
that nightmare when the Reds players would throw in the towel when things were not going our way?
Worse was to come on the 64 th as Hendo mis-passed the ball just outside the centre circle to Adam Armstrong
who made another incredible run down their left before rolling it past Kelleher from 15 yards out.
Head-scratching stuff. From two-nil up to four-two down, surely Liverpool were not going through another Real
Thankfully no. Just like the Reds have now finished the season strongly with 11 undefeated league games on the
trot, they applied the same endeavour in this last match of the season.
On the 72nd, Cody Gakpo tucked the ball in at the left post after receiving a Trent’s cross.
One minute later, a curiously unmarked Mo Salah had all the time to send Jota on his way down the right flank.
The Portuguese blasted the ball in the roof of the net from 18 yards.
If the already relegated Southampton were playing more for pride before their current crop of players is likely to
be dismantled, Liverpool were still on a mission to win this one to a least tee up nicely for next season.
There was also the matter of our Egyptian King scoring at least 20 league goals for an incredible third
Unfortunately, he came close a few times and agonizingly so on the 79 th. A long over-the-top ball from Hendo
who was still well inside Liverpool’s territory, led to a Salah first-time flick over the Saints keeper. Everybody
gasped as the ball hit the upright instead of getting in for an outrageous goal.
It was not quite an eight-goal Liverpool victory that was the wish upon a star when the Reds dominated during
the initial stages of the encounter. Instead, it was an incredulous total of eight goals for a hard-fought last match
with nothing at stake.
At the very least, the Reds should take that fighting spirit into next season.