It was a Saturday night and he was about to make his move. With four minutes of this topsy-turvy game remaining, Divock Origi positioned himself close to the penalty spot in the Newcastle box. He was joined by Virgil Van Dijk , who once again showed the type of leadership that comes with a £70 million transfer fee. With Trent Alexander-Arnold and Xherdan Shaqiri debating over who should deliver the cross from a free kick, Van Dijk made the call for them, clearly gesturing that the latter be given the responsibility.
It was yet another example of the influence the Dutchman has had on this team since his arrival in 2018. Shaqiri’s execution was superb, hit with pace into the heart of the danger zone finding Origi who directed a glancing header past Martin Dubravka. Cue hysteria in the away end.
It was a goal Jurgen Klopp’s men needed badly. Anything less than a win would have handed the initiative to Manchester City in what had been an absorbing title race thus far. Of course it mattered little in the end with Vincent Kompany’s thunderbolt against Leicester two nights later proving crucial but the way in which Liverpool once again refused to drop points highlighted why, under Klopp, we were quickly becoming known as the ‘mentality monsters’.
In previous games, particularly away to Fulham and Southampton, it looked like points had slipped away but they found a way to get all three. Winning had become a disease.
The game itself was full of entertainment. After a fairly even opening quarter, that man Van Dijk again arrived completely unmarked to get on the end of an Alexander-Arnold Cross.
Liverpool’s rearguard looked nervous however and they allowed Newcastle get back on level terms quickly. This was the penultimate game of what had been a terrific campaign and with the title in sight it may explain why some of our players were edgy.
After Trent handled Salomon Rondon’s shot on the line, Christian Atsu was there to send St James’ Park into raptures. Anyone thinking that Liverpool might have an easy ride because of Newcastle having nothing to play for and Rafa Benitez being at the helm were left in no doubt that this was going to be a battle.
Yet again the players responded as only they know how when Mo Salah profited from more poor marking to volley home after yet another peach of a cross from Alexander-Arnold, his 11th assist of the season. That was Salah’s 100th league goal in European top-flight football with 56 of those coming in the Premier League. Salah would later leave the field on a stretcher after taking a horrible blow in an aerial collision with Dubravka. At that stage the home side had once again drew level with Rondon, who had caused problems for our defenders all night, hitting the net.
As vulnerable as Liverpool looked at the back, they still carried a threat at the other end even without Salah who had been replaced by Origi. It was left to the Belgian to have the final say and, as Klopp said in his post match interview, send us into ‘our final on Sunday against Wolves’.