In the end, perhaps it was strangely appropriate for the Liverpool Jubilee to be greeted in sheer silence. Perhaps a moment on this scale deserved a little pause to think. Time for the disorienting size of achievement to plunge. Time to reflect on the extreme rarity of the circumstances in which it was achieved: 200 miles from Anfield, without any of the protagonists present.
But history will not remember the fact that his first league title in 30 years was sealed not on his own territory in the spring of Merseyside, but on a summer night in West London, courtesy of a Willian penalty. What you will remember is the amazing and brilliant shine on the Jürgen Klopp side from front to back. You will remember the party later. Yes, it turns out a title stripped of all the usual decorations: players on the field, a crowd in the stadium, a parade on the streets, hugs and those five collide, it still feels just as sweet.
One of the most powerful bites in English football, one that lasted almost a quarter of the club’s history, has been scratched. Since Kenny Dalglish’s team won the First Division in 1990, the honor roll contains 13 Manchester United, five Chelseas, four Arsenals, four Manchester City, one Leeds, one Blackburn and one Leicester. And now, 2019-20: Liverpool, a team that for six months has been a champion in waiting, waiting for a rain that has finally fallen.
This was a game that embellished your achievement and explained it. What makes Liverpool’s achievement so formidable is the fact that they have had to clear a bar higher than any other team had previously achieved: the bar established by Pep Guardiola’s City starting in 2017. However, Throughout the season, City’s occasional concentration problems have cost them dearly, and here again they made the kinds of mistakes that have finally seen them fall off their pedestal.
It was with a certain damned futility that at 8.15 in the afternoon the whistle blew and the tropical yellow shirts of the City began to try to push back the hurricane with their own hands. They had chosen a team almost full of strength, with Bernardo Silva placing in the top three in the absence of Sergio Agüero, and a pleasant pace set by Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne in the center. Meanwhile Chelsea settled in for the long haul, Mason Mount and Andreas Christensen particularly effective. Resisting the city is both a nerve test and a technique: let them catch you on their own third and it may take 10 minutes before they let you out again.
However, for all the possession and territory of the City, Chelsea resisted largely for half an hour, their only real chances came from an interception by Riyad Mahrez and a header by Fernandinho: the first given away by a clear clearance from Kepa Arrizabalaga, the second brilliantly saved by him. Has Arrizabalaga encapsulated three minutes better? Meanwhile, from time to time something strange happened: Chelsea risked the ball and created a decent opening. Ilkay Gündogan was forced into desperate clearance. Ederson brilliantly saved from Christensen. That seemed to flip a switch in Chelsea – the moment they jumped out of their traps, and realized the game was there to take over.
Still, when Antonio Rüdiger left a corner of the city in 35 minutes, little immediate danger was foreseen. But when Gündogan and Benjamin Mendy casually dropped the ball for each other, Pulisic came in and claimed it, galloping Mendy and shooting Ederson low. Jubilant teammates chased him to the corner flag. “Brilliant, friend!” Olivier Giroud yelled in what appeared to be a perfect Cockney accent. On the touchline, Frank Lampard called for calm. “Let’s go again,” he said.
And they did, but so did City. Bernardo and Rodri gave way to Gabriel Jesús and David Silva. Mendy, seeking an instant atonement, slammed a shot into the top level of the shed. It took De Bruyne, with the help of an unnecessary foul by N’Golo Kanté, to restore a bit of sanity in the proceedings, as only he knows how to do it. There was a scorn, even an indifference, in the way he went up 25 yards and just nailed the ball into the top corner, as if it was easier to score than to miss.
So, for the exciting theatrical finale: a game that seemed to empty in the middle, as both sides realized the futility of a draw. Raheem Sterling capped off a brilliant counterattack by colliding with a post. Walker removed the ball from the line after Pulisic had rounded the goalkeeper. And finally, the dramatic flourishing: a goal fight that ends with Fernandinho twice clearing Tammy Abraham’s line, the second time, fatally, with his hand. A red card for Fernandinho, a Willian fine and a three-decade party could finally start in earnest.