The Liverpool juggernaut now looks unstoppable. And worryingly for their title rivals, the majority of Saturday’s victory over Brighton and Hove Albion was largely completed while in cruise control.
Jurgen Klopp’s side only got out of third gear in the final quarter-of-an hour as three points were safely banked, despite a few late jitters, thanks to two soaring headers from centre-back Virgil van Dijk.
It had all the hallmarks of the kind of win etched out by the great Anfield sides of yesteryear.
Liverpool were dubbed the ‘Red Machine’ during the heyday of their 1980s dominance when they swept all before them and required an annual tab with Brasso to polish the silverware in the bulging trophy cabinet.
It might only be the end of November, with just over a third of the Premier League season gone, but the engine on the current version is, for the most part, purring along nicely.
A slight tweak here, a little fix there is all that is required between now and the end of the season for Liverpool to end that agonising 30-year wait for their 19th league title.
Only something spectacular will see this championship charge splutter and grind to halt.
The Reds are now unbeaten in 31 league games home and away, and equalled a club record set under Kenny Dalglish between May 1987 and March 1988.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 30, 2019
This was Liverpool’s 14th successive league victory at Anfield, their second-best winning sequence on home turf.
Klopp’s pre-match team-talk would have required little extra spice as the news filtered through to the dressing room of Jonjo Shelvey’s late equaliser as Manchester City were held to a 2-2 draw by Newcastle United.
The Kop were in full voice but the mood was underpinned by two things. Expectancy plus a demand for victory and nothing less. Liverpool’s response to that request was clinical in its efficiency.
First, Van Dijk climbed to meet Trent Alexander-Arnold’s curling free-kick to head the ball home, leaving flat-footed Brighton defender Adam Webster as helpless as a schoolkid against a Harlem Globetrotter.
Six minutes later, the Netherlands centre-back left Lewis Dunk with a similar feeling as he timed his run to meet an Alexander-Arnold corner and powerfully nodded into the net.
Liverpool are head and shoulders above their opponents. Since start of last season, they have scored 29 headed goals in the top-flight which is 10 more than any other team.
Their season’s tally makes impressive reading.
Played 14, won 12, drawn two and 38 points was City’s haul at the same stage last season. Liverpool were a further two points behind and would push their rivals all the way to the last day.
Played 14, won 13, drawn one and 40 points is Liverpool’s position this time around. However, City are 11 points behind and facing a struggle to still be in the title race by next May let along the final round of fixtures.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 30, 2019
Liverpool made things a little nervy for themselves when goalkeeper Alisson was sent off with 14 minutes remaining for handling outside the penalty area and Dunk pulled one back for Brighton.
One of the few question marks over Liverpool this season has been their defence – they have now not kept a clean sheet for 12 games.
But the embodiment of the confident swagger of Klopp’s side is Van Dijk. Jordan Henderson might hold Liverpool’s captain’s armband but the Dutchman is the spiritual leader of the side.
Van Dijk is never outpaced. Van Dijk is never outmuscled. Van Dijk is never ruffled.
He organised, marshalled and kept his composure in last few minutes. Brighton were not going to be allowed to pass and get an equaliser – no matter what.
Klopp’s own Red Machine might still need some fine tuning and there will be the odd bump in the road, but after going so close last season it appears they will reach their destination this time.
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