Departing Liverpool legend, Bobby Firmino, spared Liverpool’s blushes, with an 89th-minute equaliser in front of an adoring Kop, but Liverpool couldn’t find a winner in ten minutes of injury time. Having fallen behind midway through the first half, second-half domination, failed to glean the three points, that would have kept their Champions League hopes alive.
Aston Villa undoubtedly deserved their lead in the first half, having missed a penalty following a foul by Konate, but their time-wasting antics put prime Jose Mourinho to shame. From the very first whistle, they feigned injury, took every opportunity to hoodwink a woefully weak referee, and were lucky to escape a red card. Tyrone Mings somehow only receiving a yellow for chest-high kick on Jota. However, given that the referee had been instructed to confirm an off-side via the pitch sides screen, and simply brandished performative yellow cards for time wasting by the visitors in the second half, you could at least conclude that the officiating was consistent.
Liverpool began in the same sluggish manner we had become accustomed to before their recent run of results. They lacked energy, intensity, and quality on the ball. Salah was regularly wasteful in possession, whilst Luis Diaz, still lacking match sharpness, was infuriated with his decision-making. In fact, Alisson Becker, surely Liverpool’s player of the season, had kept the deficit to just one at half-time, with a sharp save from Ramsey, who’d earlier put Villa ahead.
Liverpool could surely only improve in the second half, though it took the talismanic Brazilian’s introduction before a goal looked likely. With the clock approaching the 90th minute, Mo Salah finally found his passing range, and a deft cross with the outside of his foot, was prodded home by Firmino. The Kop celebrated the goal as raucously as any during Bobby’s time at the club, and with ten minutes of additional time, a winner looked probable. Villa though continued to time waste, and a referee who’d frankly failed to take action earlier, as he should have, began to dole out yellow cards. Meanwhile, Liverpool continued to press, but the final ball was lacking. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner misjudging crosses, as an increasingly panic-stricken Villains defence, defended their penalty box with determination. How fitting it would have been had Firminho managed to find a 111th goal in his 361st appearance.
So a run of seven consecutive league victories has come to an end, as have the Anfield careers of four players who’ve contributed varying degrees of success under Jurgen Klopp. All were rightly given a fantastic reception following the game, with Keita and Oxlade Chamberlain, whose years at Anfield were blighted by a horrific run of injuries, receiving a commemorative award presented by Kenny Dalglish.
Milner also took the applause of the crowd as he accepted his award from King Kenny, but it was Bobby, a truly wonderful footballer, who has graced Anfield since the days of Brendan Rodgers, who got the loudest cheer from the Kop. He certainly wasn’t the only one in the ground who welled up, as his song got one last airing, as he and his family walked one final time across the Anfield turf. He’ll be sorely missed.