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United dent Liverpool’s title charge

Jurgen Klopp’s post-match comments gave the game away, with frustration and disappointment etched across his face. The question is, have Liverpool given the title away, following a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford? A game in which Liverpool didn’t secure a point until the final ten minutes, should have been secured by half-time, but it took a late Mo Salah penalty to avoid what would have been a quite astonishing defeat.

Having weathered early pressure from United, Liverpool completely dominated a first half in which they took the lead through Luis Diaz, following a corner. The Colombian rifling into the net from close range, from a headed knock down by Darwin Nunez. It was a thoroughly deserved lead, and for the remainder of the half, with Alexis Mac Allister once again pulling the strings in midfield, Liverpool ripped United to shreds, often at will.

However, its goals that when games, and time after time, further chances to score were wasted. Just as in the recent FA Cup defeat, in the final third, players in possession so often made the wrong choice, shooting too early, or taking too many touches. Diaz, Nunez, and a strangely peripheral Mo Salah, were all guilty of letting a ragged United off the hook. Somehow, Liverpool led just 1-0 at the break.

Whether Klopp read his players the riot act at half-time, reminding them that they threw away the game at Old Trafford just three weeks ago, we’ll never know. If he did, it certainly didn’t have the desired effect, as United not only equalised, but miraculously soon found themselves in front.

Firstly, Jarell Quansah, in for the injured Ibou Konate, played a blind back pass; Fernandes intercepted, and spotting Kelleher off his line, found the net from fully 40 yards. It was United’s first shot on target, and it changed the game completely. There was a seismic shift in the atmosphere, and minutes later, Liverpool trailed, having again failed to take advantage of a counter attack, even with a five versus two advantage.

Mainoo, receiving the ball with his back to goal in the penalty box, turned right, and rather like the strike from Machedo all those years ago, unleashed a curling shot beyond the goalkeeper. In truth, Kelleher had no chance, but now, Liverpools title credentials were on the line. Yet, for five minutes or so, there was chaos, and a third for United looked a real possibility. Liverpool needed to reassert their dominance.

Having displayed intensity, desire and effort, Liverpool now needed to show their character. Having missed more than half a dozen big chances, they needed to take the next, as defeat would surely have been unthinkable.

Having already rung the changes from the bench, replacing the lacklustre Szoboszlai with Harvey Elliot, it was the youngster who won a vital penalty. Scythed down by Wasaka after completing a one two, it was Salah who stepped up to take the spot kick. It was despatched with ease, showing the composure he’d lacked with equally presentable opportunities throughout the game.

At two apiece, with seven minutes of added on time, Liverpool were now back in control. Diaz though blazed high from close range in injury time, and a point was all that was gained from a game that Liverpool should have won comfortably. United meanwhile, claim to have been disappointed with a draw. They had no right to be. Liverpool let them out of jail, again.

So two points dropped, and Liverpool having failed to have beaten any of their title rivals this season, along with dropping four points against the old enemy, find themselves behind a resurgent Arsenal. The Gunners, ahead on goal difference, have won eleven of their last twelve league games. City meanwhile, trail by a point. There are seven league games to go. The league marathon, is now a sprint. I doubt Liverpool can afford to trip up again.

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