In the run up to this ridiculously mismatched contest, the media applied the epithet “already relegated” to Huddersfield Town. While it made a change from Huddersfield Town nil, it was also a message to Liverpool – drop points here and bottling would be redefined.
Conceding within 15 seconds, with Stankovíc trying to play out from the back as two rather decent footballers breathed down his neck, that notion was instantly buried.
Kieta robbed the over casual Slovenian, received a pass from Salah and beat Lössl with some comfort to record Liverpool’s fastest ever Premier League goal. The visitors had managed to turn kick off in to a golden opportunity for opponents hardly reliant on such a gift.
If there had been even a glimmer of hope for Town, and this is a stretch demanding a lot of imagination, it was to frustrate the Reds and jangle their nerves as they strived to put pressure on the other outstanding team in the division vying for a title both deserve to win.
Ironically, rather than being a prelude to Liverpool asserting their overwhelming quality, Town produced 15 minutes of decent football which almost lead to an immediate shock equaliser as Stankovíc found himself in space and side footed an attempt goal wards which deflected wide off Lovren for a poorly delivered corner.
Mbenza had an effort blocked and also delivered a dangerous cross which Mouníe failed to convert, and the striker nearly connected with another corner as the visitors took the game to their hosts.
As ever, the bright spell faded away quickly but it should be noted that there was more adventure in that brief period than in the whole of the last visit to Anfield.
With a palpable yawn, Liverpool woke up to the fact that they needed to put away this upstart and, lead by the imperious Van Dijk who, striding forward in to a space he created for himself by disdainfully swatting off any attempt to intrude upon his elegance set up Robinson to swing in a perfect cross for Mané to bury.
Any pretence of competition disappeared with the doubling of the lead and the home side set their eyes on the one area where they are well behind City; goal difference. The Terriers had contributed to the discrepancy in their 6-1 capitulation with a scratch Wagner side in the second game of the season, so this was the Merseysiders’ lamb slaughtering catch up opportunity.
As the injury time board was held up showing just 1 minute to be added, Alexander-Arnold played a sumptuous ball through to Salah who expertly lobbed Lössl to salt the visitors’ gaping wounds.
Anfield, a little more atmospheric than last season, applauded off their team who had barely broken sweat for their 3-0 lead and could even afford 15 minutes of complacency against a team consistently exposed as massively out of their depth.
Only the dynamic Bacuna – who was taken out 3 times by Kieta without a word to the Guinean from a typically indulgent referee – provided comfort to the visiting supporters though Grant’s fearless if not flawless work out of position on the left promises good things as well.
Liverpool could, and probably should, have closed the goals gap on City to the point of parity in a second half played in an increasingly swirling, cold wind. As it was, Mané planted a fine header past Lössl following an excellent Henderson cross and Salah steered home a low cross from the excellent Robinson after a defence splitting Shaqiri pass had played in the Scotsman on the left and the hosts went nap.
Shaqiri had been brought on as a substitute. Oxlade-Chamberlain was brought on as a substitute on his return from horrific injury at the back end of last season. We brought on Löwe, a left back, to replace alleged striker Mounié.
With Mané hitting the post, Lössl saving well from Oxlade-Chamberlain and the hosts rather over elaborating at times, the score was a little way off humiliation but still humbling.
Town had actually been the first to get the ball in the net in the second half but the excellent Bacuna was deprived by a correct offside call – Sturridge was similarly denied minutes later.
Before those judgements, however, Mounié managed to encapsulate everything which has been wrong with the Terriers all season. After exposing Lovren with a decent attack featuring Grant, a loose clearance allowed the Beninese a clear run on goal with both Grant and Bacuna free to his right. Mounié took so long to weigh up his options you could almost visualise the confused thought bubbles. Mané – a guy who plays up front for the equal best team in the country, vying to be the best in Europe – got back to dispossess him.
There have been many situations which could have been the final straw for the immobile, indecisive non scoring striker – his failure to play in Matt Daly last week, for instance; surely and finally this piece of ineptitude will be it?
For supporters, the yearning for an end to the relentless punishment endures. There is a certain joy in the gallows humour which masks the humiliation of being one of the most inept teams in the top flight (going back way beyond 1992), but neither is there any comfort in looking to the future at a level at which we should be able to compete, there being little evidence – Bacuna and Grant aside – that the decline can be halted.
Two theories about Siewert compete amongst the fans; he is either hidebound by the circumstances in to which he was plunged and worthy of a transfer window to transform our fortunes or an entirely unproven naïf who has shown little discernible aptitude for the job.
Successful succession planning rather assumes a smooth transition in calm circumstances, not parachuting in an inexperienced (in fact, non experienced in terms of first team football) coach to take over from an emotionally drained miracle worker. Town have done themselves nor Siewert any favours at all when Hudson could have guided the club down without the apparent friction created by a man, understandably, trying to make his mark.
A heavy defeat to an elite club and team has to be viewed in context, but as another chapter in an appalling, exhausting season of hopelessness, Town’s incessant failure cannot simply be ignored.
Perhaps the future ownership will be clearer by the end of this week, if rumours are to be believed, which may, finally, lead to some evidence of planning for the rigours of the relentless Championship season ahead.
The club, which barely deserves the number of season tickets sold, must start communicating messages beyond the banalities emanating from them at the moment (like a picture of the away dressing room before the game last night). Even a little reassurance would be welcome, if not universally believed.
Still, it’s nearly over, thank God.