Late goals will be key if Liverpool are to win the title
Liverpool have made winning a habit this season. Even though performances have at times been sub-par, they have ground out victories where they looked certain to drop points. The recent 2-1 win over Crystal Palace was a prime example. Palace gave a fine display and matched Liverpool in most areas of the field. When Wilfried Zaha struck with eight minutes remaining, it looked like the Premier League table-toppers would have to settle for a point.
But if Liverpool have shown anything this season, it’s that they’re never happy to settle for less. They charged forward, and three minutes after Zaha’s goal Roberto Firmino scored to win all three points for the visitors. It wasn’t the first time this season that Liverpool scored late to earn points that their performance perhaps didn’t merit, and it’s unlikely to be the last.
Late goals have also been scored against Leicester City, Manchester United and Aston Villa. It’s no surprise that the latest Premier League betting odds list Liverpool as firm favourites to win the title. If they do go on to lift the trophy, they’ll look back on these goals as defining moments. But why is it that Liverpool keep grabbing late goals?
Strength in depth
Ever since reaching the Champions League final in 2017-18, Liverpool’s results have been on a steep upward trajectory. Last season, they lost just one Premier League match and boasted the best defensive record in the league and of course won the Champions League.
Much of this is down to the winning mentality that manager Jurgen Klopp has instilled at the club in the last few years. He has splashed the cash to bring top quality players into positions where Liverpool were weak, notably Virgil van Dijk at centre-half and Alisson in goal. Bringing in such quality has meant standards have been raised and as such, each player has lifted their game.
But there is something greater than mere technical ability in this Liverpool team. There is a will to win driving the team on at the moment, fuelled by Klopp’s excellent man-management skills. This is visible when Liverpool are up against it in matches, to the point where a late winner or equaliser seems almost inevitable.
Even when Liverpool have been on the ropes this season, there has never been a sense of panic among the players. The team is confident in their ability and the players trust in their quality to get the job done. This was perhaps most evident in Liverpool’s only draw this season, against Man United. Even though they trailed their bitter rivals for much of the match, Liverpool remained calm and composed, upping their game in the last fifteen minutes before Adam Lallana grabbed the all-important equaliser.
It would be easy for panic to set in after conceding an unexpected goal or falling behind. But Liverpool seem to feel no pressure despite being top of the league. The fireworks of previous seasons under Klopp seem to be a thing of the past, replaced by the efficiency that underpins Liverpool’s performances of this season and last.
The true measure of this quality will be tested when we get to the business end of the season. Past Liverpool sides have fallen short when the winning-line came into view. This was evident in the 2013-14 season when Steven Gerrard slipped against Chelsea and Liverpool threw away a three-goal lead at Crystal Palace to hand Manchester City the title. Given how Liverpool have performed under immense pressure in matches so far this season, such a collapse seems unlikely under Klopp.