Cody Gakpo netted a double in Liverpool’s 7-0 victory over Manchester United.
It is a goal that has firmly etched itself into Anfield folklore.
Each one of the seven efforts Liverpool hit in their 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United won’t be forgotten. Kopites across the globe will remember exactly where they were when history was created.
But it was Cody Gakpo who provided the initial inspiration for the demolition. He bagged the decisive goal to yield a fourth Premier League victory in five games and move the Reds within three points of the top four – with a game in hand to boot.
A 43rd-minute finish came at the perfect time for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Had they not bagged two minutes before the interval, United may not have been blitzed apart in the second period.
It was a bold call to start Gakpo in a game of such magnitude. Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino were both left on the bench – and Klopp’s decision delivered.
Without a doubt, it was Gakpo’s best performance since arriving in January. How Erik ten Hag must have rued that Liverpool hijacked United’s move for the 23-year-old. Although it’s still early days, Gakpo’s now netted four goals on Merseyside after a stuttering start – and he may just be about to take over a mantle that Jota took up so impressively.
Last season, the Portugal international developed a penchant for breaking the deadlock for the Reds. In no fewer than nine games did he open the scoring – one of which came in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg at Arsenal. On four other occasions, including a 2-2 draw at Manchester City, the Portuguese netted the equaliser after the Reds had fallen a goal behind.
Yet that intervention at the Etihad Stadium almost 11 months ago was the last time Jota was on target for Klopp’s side. In 14 appearances this campaign, he’s fired blanks.
Of course, the overwhelming mitigating factor behind Jota’s barren spell is the injuries he’s endured. He missed the opening month with a hamstring injury before suffering a devastating calf injury in October that ruled him out of four months of action.
In his displays since returning to fitness, Jota’s understandably still to return to his zenith. There were encouraging signs in the 2-0 defeat of Wolves but he was still short of his best.
“Diogo is an exceptional player,” said Klopp at the start of last week. “The next one he was injured, stuff like this, and [he] needs to get rhythm now. I think it helped him a lot [starting]. Yes, he was tired, of course, after the game – that’s clear. [It’s the] same with him, we’ll have to see how he reacted and then finally today we have to make these kind of decisions [on] who can start or who should start.
“He will definitely be involved again if nothing happens. It’s a top-class player, so it’s great; versatile, he can play on the left wing, he can play in the centre and on the right wing as well. So, that’s really helpful for this busy period we are having.
Gakpo, on the other hand, is beginning to build impetus – and he’s proving he can be a player for important occasions. The Holland international bagged his maiden Liverpool goal in a 2-0 defeat of Everton in the Merseyside derby. He then followed that up with a strike in the 2-0 win against top-four rivals Newcastle United.
And against United, he proved the inspiration for the annihilation. Liverpool hadn’t created any gilt-edged opportunities before Gakpo’s opener. Granted, a sumptuous, incisive pass from Andy Robertson did half the way for Liverpool yet Gakpo still had to befool a top-quality defender in Raphael Varane before bending an effort into the far corner.
It was the calibre of goal Kopites expected when he was signed for £37 million from PSV Eindhoven. That gave him the confidence to execute an audacious dink over United keeper David De Gea for the Reds’ third goal.
Take nothing away from Jota, he has a substantial role to play for the remainder of the season. In the pursuit of Champions League qualification, his experience and nous will be invaluable. However, given the severity of his issues, it may not be until next season that we see Jota at his zenith again. Firmino, meanwhile, may be deployed primarily as an impact substitute before he departs at the end of the season.
Of course, Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez will be expected to shoulder plenty of the burden to bag the first goal. Others will also have to chip in. But if Gakpo is to continue to spearhead the attack, he’s proven he’s capable.