Liverpool’s virtuous circle delivers another win from behind

Steven Chicken

We already knew there was not a huge difference in class between Liverpool and Manchester City, but we didn’t expect Crystal Palace to hammer the point home by matching the three goals they scored against City last month with another trio at Anfield. Fortunately for the Reds, by the time Max Meyer put away Palace’s third, Liverpool had already scored four of their own in a dramatic and hugely entertaining game.

Andros Townsend’s 34th-minute opener was just the fifth time Liverpool had fallen behind in the Premier League this season, four of which have come since the beginning of December. Only Manchester City (four) have found themselves trailing in fewer matches all season, but nonetheless, to have been behind in four of their last nine games would normally be at least mildly troubling for Jurgen Klopp.

Crucially, though, Liverpool have won three (Burnley, Arsenal and now Palace) and drawn one (Chelsea) of those five games, giving them an average of exactly two points from matches in which they have gone behind, more than Manchester United have averaged across all their games; the next best equivalent record in the Premier League is Arsenal’s 1.09.

It is an impressive record, and Liverpool needed all of that resolve – as well as two very large helpings of good fortune for each of Mohamed Salah’s goals in the form of a deflection and a Julian Speroni error – to come away from this game with three points, needing to go ahead not once but twice as James Tomkins cancelled out both Salah’s first and a deflected Firmino strike. We knew this run of games would be a grind for Liverpool, but this was ridiculous.

James Milner’s 89th-minute red card only seemed to galvanise them further, with Sadio Mane putting the game almost beyond doubt in injury time – emphasis on the ‘almost’, because Meyer’s response made it slightly nervier than the Anfield crowd would have liked.

To restate: Liverpool have now taken 10 of a possible 15 points from losing positions. City, by contrast, have managed to rescue just one of a possible 12, with that coming in their 1-1 draw away to Wolves back in August.

Cold logic and reason suggest this may simply be a statistical quirk, and that we often tend to attach too much importance to the order in which goals are scored; but these are human beings, not Vulcans, and games such as these can be hugely important in building self-belief and confidence.

Klopp’s side are creating a virtuous circle that could be crucial in allowing them to maintain their winning habit: they have proven to themselves that no cause is ever entirely lost, and that knowledge can push their players to run a little bit harder, tackle a little more snappily, and play a little bit better. In a title race that could come down to the finest margins, that could make all the difference in the world.

Steven Chicken is on Twitter