The season starts here. And there’s little doubt Fabio Carvalho’s dramatic late winner against Newcastle United could ultimately mean more than just three Premier League points for Liverpool.
“It’s massive,” said Jurgen Klopp, acknowledging the potential importance. “We will remember it for years and years.”
Small wonder the Reds boss produced his trademark post-match fist-pumps for the first time this season, his defiant delight such that the usual triple celebration was doubled, each greeted by staccato cheers from the Klopp.
It was that kind of evening, an occasion when belief was restored not just among the players but the fanbase too.
Saturday’s record-equalling stroll against Bournemouth was, by very definition, a freak. A one-off. More regular, though, are the kind of visits from Newcastle United and Crystal Palace, teams more than happy to make life as difficult as possible for Liverpool and frustrate Anfield.
And while there was a party atmosphere as the goals flowed at the weekend, by contrast on Wednesday there were, similar to the game against Palace, audible sounds of discontent in the stands as the Reds, despite dominating possession, floundered against a resolute Newcastle rearguard happy to scrap out a hard-earned point.
For much of the early weeks, Anfield has been subdued, partly an ongoing consequence of the troubling events at Paris but primarily based on the nagging concern Liverpool have fallen behind after coming close to an unprecedented quadruple last season. Indeed, against Fulham, Palace, Manchester United and Newcastle, while there were clear signs the opposition has improved and progressed during the summer, the Reds appeared to have regressed.
There was always going to be bit of kickback from the efforts last term. But perhaps more accurate is that those four teams – along with others such as Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton and leaders Arsenal – are all in a stronger position than Liverpool at this present time given the absences that have decimated Klopp’s options and weakened the Reds as a result.
The cavalry, though, is now on its way. Darwin Nunez has served his ban, Joel Matip and Curtis Jones were on the bench against Newcastle, and Diogo Jota is expected to start training this week with Thiago Alcantara not far behind. The hamstring injury suffered by Jordan Henderson, though, was a further remind of availability issues in midfield that have required a sticking plaster ahead of the transfer deadline.
Hence the importance of Carvalho’s goal, and more pertinently the circumstances around it. Newcastle’s unashamed timewasting had riled both the home crowd and dugout and provided a lightning rod for their angst, uniting Liverpool supporters and strengthening the level of support for Klopp’s players.
The explosion of noise that greeted the winner was arguably the loudest inside Anfield since supporters were allowed back into stadia en masse at the start of last season. Sure, there have been memorable goals and victories in that time, but none have prompted the guttural response to Carvalho smashing the ball home off the underside of the crossbar.
Liverpool and their supporters remembered how to dig out a win, a trait that has served them so well under Klopp and prompted the tag of ‘mentality monsters’. Certainly, it will be of far more long-term value than the nine-goal romp of four days previous.
But the onus is now firmly on the Reds to build on their first real momentum of the campaign, the relentless schedule seeing a Goodison derby and a Champions League group opener at Napoli in the next seven days followed by home assignments against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Ajax and a trip to Chelsea ahead of the only international break before the World Cup.
“Everybody saw it tonight: we have to improve,” said Klopp immediately after Wednesday’s game. “The next game will not be like that Everton open for us all the gates and say okay, you want to go here or there. We have to fight through this as well and at Goodison, not at home. We know it will be tough so we have to be ready for that.”
Just two points off the top four, the season has finally started for Liverpool – and with it a chance to properly ascertain just what might be possible this campaign.