The game was up. Four minutes of stoppage time were about to be added. Liverpool had surrendered their lead at home to Tottenham in a rather limp second half display, and were unlucky not to be behind – but for Moussa Sissoko’s and a horror show in the final third, they would have been. They looked unlikely to get any goal, and this was heading for a draw that would be a major setback in their title challenge, about to level on points with City having played a game more.
But a cross into the back-post, Mohammed Salah with a seemingly innocuous and ill-advised header towards. But Hugo Lloris spills it, the ball rebounds off Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld, and trickles over the line. From the nowhere, and the cusp of collapse, three points. Liverpool had snatched a win from the jaws of stalemate once again, their modus operandi this season, as they move back to the top of the Premier League.
That’s been the case for Jurgen Klopp’s side this term, in their pursuit of a first league title in 29 years. They find a way, no matter how, or at least a way opens up for them, no matter what. That goal against Tottenham was the third time they’ve scored a winning goal in the 90th minute or later this season. Luck? Or destiny?
And it’s not just the timing of the goals, but also how they happen. Before this game, and before the international break, Liverpool were heading towards a draw at Fulham, until the home goalkeeper Sergio Rico made a horror decision in the final 10 minutes and hauled down Sadio Mane in the box, for James Milner to convert a penalty and give the Reds three vital points.
How about the win over Crystal Palace in January, when a Julian Speroni howler aided and abetted a 4-3 victory? Or at Brighton in that same month, the game in which a needless foul made for a 1-0 win via a spot-kick. Or Daniel Sturridge popping up with an equaliser out of nothing at Chelsea in September? And who can forget Jordan Pickford’s last minute gaffe against Everton in the Merseyside derby at the start of December?
Isolated incidents? They seem that way. But put them together, and there’s something in there. Without those moments, Liverpool would only be four points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United. This seems too simplistic, teams have had the rub of the green in the league, and decisions and incidents will always fall the way of all sides in the course of a 10-month campaign.
But this looks to be a constant machination by fate, an opposite of Murphy’s Law, if you can say so. Every wind of fortune seems to be blowing Klopp’s and Liverpool’s way. That the gods of football, if they exist, are manipulating patterns for Liverpool to finally get that 19th title for which they’ve thirsted for a while.
There’s still events to come this season, though, and maybe this will all be a case of a team who hasn’t been as fluid and free as they have been for a while finally having no more luck to paper over its cracks. The tension at Anfield continues to build, and that sort of nerviness may well reach breaking point and quake apart their title challenge. Destiny calling or delaying the inevitable? In the end, it’s up to hindsight to tell us which it is.