After West Ham United’s shock defeat to Newcastle United at the weekend, there was an opportunity for Liverpool to move back into the top four for the first time since mid-February. But standing in their way was a Leeds United side that are incredibly difficult to play against, and whose attacking style means liberties cannot be taken at the back.
In the end, Liverpool crumbled at Elland Road. Having led 1-0 for most of the match thanks to Sadio Mané’s first-half tap-in, Leeds’ late pressure ultimately told, with a disastrous piece of Liverpool defending leading to a simple-headed equaliser for Diego Llorente. Having played so well in the first half, Liverpool were left to count the cost of their profligacy.
For Jürgen Klopp and his team, it was a chance missed not only to enter the top four again, but to ease the media storm which has surrounded the club since the announcement of their intentions to join a European Super League. A win would have gone some way to placating the club’s incensed supporters, but in the end, it was a familiar tale for Liverpool this season, and their chances of making the top four look less likely, according to the English Premier League betting odds.
Leaving the controversy surrounding the Super League aside, the match was a familiar tale of missed opportunities for Liverpool. They showed complete control in the first half, but couldn’t make the most of their dominance, and Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa would have been delighted to have gone in at halftime only a single goal adrift.
A team as good as Leeds were always likely to find their gear eventually, and in the second half the Yorkshire side probably felt as if they’d done enough to win the game. Chance after chance came the home team’s way, but through a mixture of bad luck, poor finishing and the inspired form of Alisson in Liverpool’s goal, they couldn’t find the breakthrough.
When the goal did finally arrive, no one could argue that it wasn’t deserved. Jack Harrison’s curled corner found the head of Llorente, and with Liverpool’s defence all at sea, it was a simple task to nod the ball past Alisson. With that goal, Liverpool’s hopes of finishing in the top four were dealt a blow. Klopp’s side had built up a bit of momentum in the league with successive wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers, Arsenal and Aston Villa, and this latest setback has come at just the wrong time.
Of course, the uncertainty over the Super League news, and whether or not the clubs involved will face sanctions, adds a different dynamic to the race for Champions League football. However, it’s clear that Liverpool’s supporters are dead against any such competition, and so they’ll be willing their team to squeeze into those top four spots in the hopes that Liverpool will be able to compete in Europe’s premier club competition next season.
In many ways, Liverpool’s display against Leeds was a microcosm of their whole season – some parts were good, some parts were bad, some parts were average. It’s been a meek title defence, and with performances like this Liverpool’s season looks unlikely to have a redemptive ending.
By: Magda Rapala
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Clive Brunskill – Getty Images