To paraphrase Orwell (Orwell the lads!), ‘all three points are equal, but some three points are more equal than others’.
That was a statement of intent, today, The Reds showing tonnes of grit to come away with all three points when at 1-0 down and down to ten men, we would have chopped your hand off for a draw.
This was always going to be tough, they’re a powerful, well-coached and settled team who had started the season well and whose home record is impressive. We’ve had another chaotic week, with injuries (Konaté’s just not reliable, is he?) and transfer speculation around Mo (in the week we play Saudi-owned Newcastle, yep, I was shocked too).
I think most of us would have started with that 11, Mac Allister and Dom having been brought in to play in front of a 6. Jota may have started had he not been under the weather, in any case, when he came on he was great! More on him shortly.
We started okay but things quickly went downhill. Trent should never have got booked, he was fouled just beforehand and he seemed a little rattled from then on. Newcastle’s bench’s attitude has never been anything other than disgraceful, but they excelled themselves today. BeHeadie was up in arms trying to get Trent sent off and Tindall (swipe left for him) dared to ‘shush’ Jurgen. How did that work out for you, knobhead?
The goal is unfortunate, these things happen, the sending-off is a decision we’re never going to get (just look at Mac Allister last week and the handball the week before). A change was needed and unfortunately Diaz had to make way through no fault of his own. That surprised me, he was our most dangerous player, I thought (not to mention his explosive start to the season). Still, it was obviously done for ‘shape’ reasons.
Getting to half-time just one down was key and if we did, that was in no small part thanks to Alisson. He’s the best I’ve seen. And the second-best Dave’s Dad has seen, after Kelleher! I said a couple of weeks back that he’d be up to the task if and when called upon. He has been. Our most important player right now.
Given what has been said after the game, half-time was big, there was a feeling something was brewing. Faced with adversity, these lads came up trumps. A baying home crowd. A referee who allowed their players to kick us around the park. A man down. A goal down. And yet we went out and did that in the second half.
The changes on the hour mark – Harvey and Jota coming on – made a real difference, and quickly. We started to get a foothold, all the more admirable with just ten men. Jota’s link-up play was fantastic and Mo put in a fantastic ‘shift’, chasing down and showing for that out-ball to take the pressure of us at the back. The game obviously got stretched and we’d be singing a different tune had Almiron’s shot gone the other side of the post. But it didn’t!
That was on the 76th minute and just after, Darwin came on and the rest, as they say, is his story. Two shots, two goals, a booking and his first words in English! His first is a thing of beauty. Trent. Mo. Diogo. Darwin. Goal. Seven seconds. The finish is worthy of many of our previous Number Nines. As is the second. The through-ball from Mo is inch-perfect, the finish astounding.
Things are far from perfect. But today was monumental. Alisson is our goalie, the best there is around. Matip and Gomez kept out Newcastle for the bones of an hour. Trent bounced back to captain The Reds to victory. Dom put in another huge shift. Diogo proved his worth as he has done so often before. Mo set up this victory. Darwin kickstarted his season. And Jürgen shut the Saudis up.
Up The Reds.