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Sunday, April 14, 2024

What Liverpool’s chaotic win over Nottingham Forest tells us about the Premier League title race

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Football

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For a result at the City Ground that might have been considered quite predictable, you wouldn’t have said that about what actually happened.

There was Darwin Nunez’s plundered 99th-minute winner for Liverpool, most consequentially, to continue a decisive individual campaign that defies so many of the narratives around the Uruguayan. That led to chaos on the final whistle, as so many from Nottingham Forest confronted referee Paul Tierney about some of his decisions. The main source of contention was a drop-ball call that should, admittedly, have gone the home side’s way. It wasn’t the reason for the result but was the reason for scenes that almost descended into comedy.

There was Mark Clattenburg, ashen-faced but diplomatically explaining in the mixed zone why the Forest owners were aggrieved.

Liverpool snatched a late victory over Nottingham Forest

(AFP via Getty Images)

Evangelos Marinakis didn’t look quite so diplomatic as he stared towards the pitch after the game. It was later relayed that he had indeed had a “brief exchange” with Tierney but Forest assured everyone that it was “not a shouting match”.

It was all a lot of mayhem and emotion, though.

Within that, there was some clear thinking that possibly explains the result.

Some of that came from Nunez. When subbed on, he was subjected to a few chants about his perceived quality, as well as unfavourable comparisons to previous underperforming Liverpool strikers.

Darwin Nunez proved to be Liverpool’s man for the big moment once again

(AP)

Klopp made a point of saying Nunez was well aware of it, that he knew exactly what it all meant.

He set out to make a point of his own. Klopp praised him for silencing the chants in the best way possible.

There is certainly little sweeter than a stoppage-time winner, especially one that comes as late as the 99th minute. This was another complaint from Forest, that time had ticked past the allotted eight minutes.

Then, as Klopp put it, Alexis Mac Allister “had a good idea”. “So did Darwin.” The Argentine swerved in a cross and the Uruguayan finished it.

It was all the more satisfying because of the month it came in as much as the match. Liverpool had a series of absences and were amidst a gruelling four-game period. Klopp admitted he never would have expected to win all four of those games and it looked like he wasn’t going to as late as 5pm on Saturday.

Liverpool have suffered a series of injuries this season

(AP)

Instead, a makeshift team again came through. Another clear thought came into Klopp’s mind. It was a memory, specifically of the 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in the 2019-20 campaign. The German felt it was maybe the hinge moment of the season, one that propelled Liverpool forward in terms of form but also psychologically empowered them, all the way to a title.

Klopp wasn’t going to go as far as saying it means they will win the title now. He knows better than anyone how exacting the threshold is. The presumption has to be that Manchester City will end up with more than 85 points. That means single moments like this are no longer enough.

It used to be said when this kind of result happens – a defiance about a win that lends an air of destiny to the team – that it’s a “sign of champions”.

It’s now a sign of serious challengers. That is what Klopp will be most content with for now. That is what moments like this help with.

They bolster that belief necessary to get into a race with City. They are a further sign that this Liverpool side really are at that kind of level. They offer clarity, amid the chaos.

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