Forget talk of controversial decisions, painful debates over VAR and ongoing confusion over the handball rule; the real headline news at Anfield yesterday was that Liverpool have the drive, momentum, and sheer emotional energy to end 30 years of hurt.
Manchester City will point, of course, to that crucial moment in the first half when they were denied a penalty as the ball cannoned off Trent Alexander-Arnold’s arm and Liverpool raced away to score through Fabinho at the other end.
But for all the endless chatter and whining that inevitably followed — and which will probably continue for many weeks ahead — it isn’t VAR which decided this game and it isn’t luck which is catapulting Liverpool towards their first title since 1990.
There’s a fizzing energy in the air at Anfield which has built and built over a number of years and the heavy metal music is now reaching aferocious crescendo, one so deafening it is loud enough to drown out even the VAR debate.
Yes, City can feel hard done by because that penalty decision was one which could have gone their way on another occasion; but Liverpool were so lethal in attack, so ruthless in the tackle, so energised in every aspect of play that the champions, despite their attractive football, were second best — and they now sit fourth in the Premier League, nine points adrift of their biggest title rivals.
Most of the talk in the build-up to the game was around the potential for that nine-point gap and whether it would be enough to hand Liverpool the title, even with six months still remaining in the season.
When you read that sentence aloud it the cold light of day it seems almost preposterous, given all the ups and downs the Premier League has presented us with over the last few decades. But even so, there were some pretty big names willing to propound the theory, including Jose Mourinho, and this performance suggested it wasn’t so fanciful after all.
“When you are that many points ahead and you are a good team, then you just have to control your destiny,” Mourinho, the former Manchester United and Chelsea manager, said.
“Liverpool are the champions of Europe and they know how to deal with the pressure. If the difference is nine points, then for me, it’s goodbye.”
City won’t believe it’s goodbye just yet, but how on earth they turn around the momentum that is driving Liverpool towards the finishing line is hard to contemplate. Theatmosphere at Anfield was so electric and so full of emotional energy that it looked like Guardiola’s players, normally so calm, simply could not think or perform.
How else can you explain how top-quality sstars like Sergio Aguero, who has never scored in 10 matches at Anfield, missed gilt-edged chances?
Or why City’s woeful defence handed Liverpool the initiative time and time again, gifting them space on both wings, which the home team’s full-backs and the imperious Mo Salah accepted with glee?
Guardiola can moan about VAR and referee Michael Oliver, but the truth is his players made far more mistakes than the officials — and the momentum, the direction of travel, was always with Liverpool who had the edge in every area of the pitch that mattered.
This victory makes it 46 matches unbeaten at Anfield for Klopp’s side and leaves City without a win in front of the Kop since 2003 (in fact, they have recorded only one win here in the Premier League era).
But the three points means far more than that; it’s a building block towards a title victory which Liverpool fans have waited a lifetime for and which City look increasingly unable to withstand.
There will be people who say that it is not necessarily a two-horse race now that Chelsea and Leicester, title winners in 2016 of course, have found top form — and certainly Leicester could play a part given they play both Liverpool and City before 2020 arrives.
But who would really bet against Liverpool now? By the time 2019 disappears into the distance, we should have a far clearer picture of how Klopp’s side are coping with the pressure, which will only intensify the nearer they get to ending 30 years of hurt; but so far, it’s looking good.
A quick glance at the fixture list for November and December suggests it would be a huge surprise if Liverpool were not top of the table on New Year’s Day, with Crystal Palace, Brighton, Bournemouth and Watford amongst the fixtures on the horizon, while City have Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal to contend with.
Liverpool’s second and third goals here, at crucial moments in the game, underline just how difficult it will be for anyone to take points at Anfield with Klopp’s side so irrepressible and the crowd so passionate.
Salah’s header, which made it 2-0, came at the end of awonderful breakaway move inspired by both their full-backs and particularly by Andrew Robertson’s stunning cross which made the finish all the more spectacular.
Then Mané’s brave back-post header, from JordanHenderson’s equallyimpressive cross, brokeCity hearts and ended their challenge right at the start of the second half.
Every Liverpool fan in every corner of the ground sucked that ball into the net and those avid supporters, who have waited so long to be reunited with a trophy they once regarded as their birthright, sense something special is happening at last.
Even City’s late consolation goal from Bernardo Silva didn’t create the level of panic or nervousness it might have done in the past as Liverpool held out comfortably for a victory which was about far more than VAR.
It was a performance which unveiled a significant gap in the momentum, energy, and ruthlessness between two teams who started the season as joint favourites. The balance is certainly changing.