IBO Reporter : B3na1i
|As the players took their positions for kick off anyone that had registered a time with their mates for the first use by the commentary team (Tyler and Smith) of the phrase ‘Austrian Klopp’ to refer to Ralph will have been disappointed as it happened before the BLM knee. The whistle blew and the next commentary bingo phrase is immediately uttered as reference is made to all the Saints players that Liverpool have acquired over recent seasons. And then this…
After 1 min Diallo wins the ball in midfield and plays it to Armstrong who is brought down by Thiago. Ward-Prowse stands over the resulting freekick and gives a signal to the waiting bank of players ready to attack it. It’s lifted forward to Ings who’s on the right of the goal and he loops the ball from a tight angle over Allison and into the top corner of the goal. The time hasn’t even hit two minutes.
It’s a wonderful finish that some people are now trying to claim was a cross. It wasn’t and let me tell you why, I’ve watched this goal many times now (as I imagine many of you have). Watch where Ings’ eyes go and the expression on his face immediately after he hits it. He’s looking top corner and confident, he’s not thinking, damn I fecked that cross up. The other argument I’ve heard is that Stephens’ position suggests it’s a cross for him. Again, no, there’s no way Danny Ings is the man in that move crossing for Stephens. If Stephens is the intended recipient of a cross, Ings is in the middle of the goal distracting defenders and someone like Armstrong, Theo, Bertrand is playing the cross in. This was an intended and brilliant goal, and that’s final. Ings doesn’t overly celebrate against his old club until he’s surrounded by his own players and then he allows himself a big smile.
I’m obviously excited that Saints have scored, but as always in this position I’m thinking it’s too early. We’ll probably just anger the beast and they’ll pummel us for the next 90 minutes. But the expected onslaught doesn’t materialise.
A minute after the restart the much-praised Thiago finds himself in the book and it’s not looking like his night. Diallo on the other hand is having a very impressive evening, winning possession, playing neat passes, pressing well – my fears about Romeu being out start to subside. Forster doesn’t have much to do but he looks a little uncomfortable in the opening exchanges with his kicking game. This is such an important part of how Saints play now with Alex McCarthy playing the sweeper keeper roll and it concerns me a little.
After 9 minutes it’s getting close to a full house on Saints commentary bingo as we’re reminded of the stat that Saints have lost of a lot of leads since Ralph has joined, yeah yeah we know… but it’s not really a fair stat is it guys, many of those leads were lost in the earlier days of Ralph’s reign when the players clearly weren’t fit enough to play his high tempo, high press game – thanks a lot Mark Hughes! Anyway back to the game, Armstrong is caught offside but the space behind the makeshift Liverpool defence is looking promising. Forster is stationary for an Alexander Arnold cross and I continue to fear for him but the ball is blocked. Liverpool appeal for a handball but VAR says no – the Liverpool fans won't like that one I think – little did I know that after the game the German Klopp would be moaning about the lack of penalties his team get awarded – yes that’s right the manager of Liverpool had the nerve to say that in front of a camera.
On around 15 minutes Mrs B came down from upstairs to let me know we were back in Lockdown – like most sequels, this one is bound to be shite but, hopefully it’s the last in the series. She offered me a couple of Percy Pigs from the bag she was eating, which I took. When I look back to the screen Salah is bearing down on goal big Frazer comes out makes himself big(ger) and blocks really well. The flag goes up Salah was offside but that was great from the big man - my confidence in him grows and I’m sure it will do his confidence good to get that under his belt too.
On 29 minutes Saints injury woes continue Djenepo is withdrawn with what looks like a hamstring problem and Tella comes on in his place. It’s a shame for Mousa who’s been having a decent game – as have the whole team. A couple of minutes after that and we’ve got a Saints commentary Bingo full house as we get a 9-0 reference and a bigger clubs will be sniffing around Ralph one from Alan Smith – feck off Al.
It’s a half of few chances and as the half moves into the last few minutes Bertrand gets referred to VAR for a clever bit of defending in the box after his initial mistake – nothing doing according to VAR. Firmino heads wide from a Robertson free kick after a foul on Mane, before at the other end Tella latches onto an Ings header and tries a long range effort that’s not too far away. There’s another moment for Forster where he comes to claim the ball and drops it as Salah and Bertrand get in his way. The ref gives a freekick to Saints. Just before the added time board is raised Ward-Prowse plays a great ball for that man Ings who tries to find Walcott, but Liverpool get it out for a corner.
4 added minutes and in the first of these Mane crosses for Salah to head wide. At this point I notice that the notes I’m typing into my phone have autocorrected all references to Salah to Sarah – I can’t be arsed to change it now.
A decent first half for Saints comes to an end not long after a Liverpool corner is adjudged to have swung out of play. I couldn’t remember a single legitimate shot on target for Liverpool and the Sky graphics told me my memory was right.
The second half is a completely different story for long periods.
Liverpool come out to attack Saints and are under significant pressure from the off. There are Liverpool corners, another failed penalty appeal – this time for a claim of handball against Stephens. Saints are basically relying on big hoofs up the pitch to get it away in the first 8 or so minutes of the half. If this COVID pandemic has as many waves as Liverpool’s attacks in this opening exchange we’ll be in for many more lockdowns yet – thankfully there was nothing scary or deadly about these waves though. Saints defence held up well.
When Saints do get it away they play some nice stuff but it’s once again brought to an end by a Thiago foul – he does seem to like a foul this lad. There’s a chance for Theo from a header down by the excellent Walker-Peters, but Theo blasts well over. On 55 minutes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is withdrawn and it’s a strange moment, usually he’d get, and return, a round of applause from the home supporters but tonight there are obviously no one in the stadium to show their appreciation for a past player. Shaqiri is on (and if we’re keeping track of autocorrect corrections – he’s in my notes as Shakira). Most of my notes from this point on say Stephens/Bednarek/Walker-Peters/Betrand/Diallo/Ward-Prowse block from ‘Insert Liverpool attacker’. But for all of their puff, thanks to some wonderful defending it’s the 75th minute before Liverpool register a shot on target by Mane, Forster gets down to it.
There’s a flurry of substitutions with Ings going off for N’Lundulu and Alexander-Arnold (who’s been poor) is replaced by Milner on his birthday. Theo is also withdrawn for Valery, but not before Theo has pissed off Milner by daring to challenge him. At first glance the Valery sub feels a bit odd considering how far from the team he’s been for so long, but along with the other two youngsters he’s impressive in a more forward role than he’s usually deployed in. A couple of minutes after he comes on he is put into space by a great ball from Stephens and if he’d put a little more on his shot it would have been 2-0.
There’s more Liverpool attacks, there’s more fantastic blocks… I’ve got notes that reference Mane Sarah and Shakira followed by a bunch of heroic Saints defenders and punches and collections from Forster. There are 3 minutes of added time signalled and even Allison comes forward for one corner and I’m starting to wonder it I’m writing a report for a WPL game as I look at my autocorrected notes. The whistle blows as Bednerak blocks for what would have been another corner and I’m on my knees on my living room floor looking a King Ralph on his knees in St Mary’s stadium – the emotion is clear to see all over his face. He’s probably not aware that Saints are the only team to beat each reigning Champion of the premier league at this point and the historical significance of the result – and that just makes his passion even more impressive to me. He’s doing something very special and he appears to be loving that.
Man of the Match
Difficult to pick one, as usual Walker-Peters is showing that he’s an absolute steal at £12m, Bednarek is proving to be one of the best young CBs in the league, Stephens has been flawless when asked to step back in to cover injuries this season, Ings’ finish was incredible, Ward-Prowse is like the conductor of a well-honed orchestra. But for me, the MotM has to go to Ibrahima Diallo. To come into that side and fill the boots of one of the season’s best performers (and I don’t just mean for Saints) in Romeu and make us not only not miss him but play the game his own way was incredible. He was strong in the challenge, good on the ball, got attacks going, broke attacks up and passed beautifully – a very exciting player to have at such a young age and if he keeps on like this he’ll be incredible for us.