Liverpool make their extraordinary record-breaking exploits look ordinary in win vs. West Ham
LIVERPOOL, England -- There is something remarkable about the Liverpool team that is now just four victories away from claiming the Premier League title: Even the extraordinary is beginning to seem routine for Jurgen Klopp and his players.
For 13 second-half minutes against West Ham at Anfield, Liverpool's historic season appeared to be heading straight for an unexpected road block, with David Moyes's relegation-threatened team taking a 2-1 lead after goals from Issa Diop and Pablo Fornals had cancelled out Georginio Wijnaldum's eighth-minute opener. No big deal, perhaps. Liverpool are so far ahead of the rest in the Premier League that one defeat was hardly going to knock them off their stride and put the title in jeopardy.
But losing would have denied Liverpool the chance to emulate Arsene Wenger's Arsenal Invincibles by going through a season without suffering a league defeat. A defeat, or a draw, would also have stopped Liverpool equalling Manchester City's record of 18 successive Premier League wins. Klopp's men would have fallen one short of equalling Liverpool's own all-time record of 21 consecutive top-flight home wins, set in 1972, as well.
But a goal from Sadio Mane during the final 10 minutes turned defeat into victory, making it 109 points from the last 111 available, and all of those records and achievements were back on the table. They have now equalled City's run of 18 straight league wins -- Liverpool can set a new mark by beating Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday -- and they will break their home record with a 22nd consecutive win against Bournemouth at Anfield on March 7. Both of the above will be incredible feats, but they are likely to be nothing more than footnotes when the full story of Liverpool's 2019-20 season is finally told.
"I never thought [City's record] would be broken or equalled," Klopp said. "We did it and I cannot believe it happened, to be honest."
In any other season, those two records would be heralded as hallmarks of a truly great team, but there are so many bigger and more historic achievements in Liverpool's path that these will pale into insignificance.
If Liverpool win their next four games and seal the title -- the club's first since 1990 -- against Crystal Palace at Anfield on March 21, they will have done so in record time. But they are also unbeaten in 44 Premier League games -- five more will equal Arsenal's record of 49 top-flight games without defeat -- and they are just 11 games away from joining the 2004 Invincibles in the pantheon of great teams if they avoid defeat for the remainder of the campaign. City's record tally of 100 points is also likely to be obliterated and.
Let's not forget, Liverpool are still alive in the FA Cup and Champions League, too, so Manchester United's 1999 Treble is also there to be matched. Having already won the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup this season, a haul of five major trophies would surely end any debate as to whether this is the greatest club side that English football has ever seen.
One statistic that may not create too many headlines, however, is the one that tells you that the 3-2 win against West Ham was the 13th time this season that Liverpool have won a league game with a one-goal margin. It's not a number that should be dismissed as a footnote. In many ways, it emphasises the many qualities of Klopp's team.
It demonstrates that Liverpool have discovered the crucial knack of always finding a way to win. They have not blown teams away this season, but they have overcome all of them, with the exception of Manchester United at Old Trafford, but even on that occasion, they dug out a late equaliser because they are prepared to take risks to get something from games.
"Sometimes you have to squeeze it and force it," Klopp said. "And that is what we did tonight."
It is an approach that has taken Liverpool to the brink of history even if, on this occasion, a couple of costly mistakes by West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski helped them on their way to victory.
The record books are waiting to be rewritten. They might as well pulp the ones that have gone before because there are so many new highs that Liverpool are preparing to hit. The only question is how many trophies they will win along the way, but for now, Klopp just wants his players to keep their foot on the pedal until the title is confirmed.
"You see City playing and this is the team in world football that are able to win all their other games," he said. "We have to keep winning. We need to be ready, and it is a home game for Watford [next]. It is not about shining, but the hardest work. As long as the boys are ready to work hard I am not concerned, but it is still a job to do."
Klopp need not be worried. It is now just a case of when Liverpool win the league, not if.