Open almost any of our personalised football books, and somewhere, at one point or another, you’ll find evidence of one undeniable truth: Liverpool football club ruled the 1970’s and 80’s, not just in England, but also on the continent. With the inception of the Premier League in 1992, many anticipated another period of dominance for the Reds, perhaps even on a grander scale than before.
Instead, what followed was three decades of near-misses and what-ifs. While the Kop continued to witness numerous European triumphs, the Reds simply couldn’t seem to replicate such glory in the domestic league.
That is, until 2020. A season that will live long in the memory for many reasons, but nowhere more so than on Merseyside, where it will forever be the year when the wait finally ended, in suitably emphatic style. Jurgen Klopp’s crop of title winners are immortalised both in our Liverpool “Winning Seasons” newspaper book and right here, as we remember the five key games that won Liverpool the Premier League.
Mane of the Moment
2 November 2019, Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool, Villa Park
It has often been said that the most successful teams are those able to grind a result out when the game seems all but gone, which is exactly what Liverpool did against newly-promoted Aston Villa in early November.
Trailing since the 21st minute, the Reds finally managed to rescue the tie three minutes from time, as Andy Robertson headed home a Sadio Mane cross. For many sides, this would’ve been more than satisfactory: point saved, ten-month unbeaten run protected again, job done.
But not Liverpool. With effectively the final kick of the game, Mane, possibly the smallest player on the pitch, popped up to head home the winner, reinforcing the old adage that, with Liverpool, it’s never over until it’s over. Indeed, according to the Daily Mirror, Mane’s was the 35th stoppage time winner for Liverpool in Premier League history, at least ten more than any other club.
But perhaps most importantly, this late comeback victory kept the wheels fully spinning heading into the Reds’ next game. Their opponents? The team that had beaten them to the previous league title by a single point: Manchester City.
Eight No Stopping ‘Em
10 November 2019, Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City, Anfield
In most people’s eyes, this Sunday afternoon in November was the day that Liverpool football club went from potential Premier League champions, to champions-elect.
At the time, this would perhaps have been a naive statement, given that the season was only twelve games in. But in hindsight, this was the match that not only exhibited Liverpool’s superiority over City (at least at that juncture), but also provided a points gap already larger than City could have hoped to bridge. The Mirror’s John Cross wrote that this was “a season-defining victory” and “a seismic shift in the title race”.
From the moment the team sheets were submitted, and showed the unreliable Claudio Bravo in goal for Manchester City, Fernandinho at centre-half and the unproven Angelino at left-back, the advantage was with Jurgen Klopp’s men.
It took just over five minutes to translate that advantage to the scoresheet; following a somewhat fortunate VAR ruling of “no penalty” after the ball struck Trent Alexander-Arnold’s hand, Man of the Match Fabinho, rifled a 25-yard thunderbolt into Bravo’s net. A mere seven minutes later, a Mo Salah header made it two-nothing. By the time Sadio Mane added a third just after half-time, the battle, and in many ways the war, was done and dusted.
The win put Liverpool eight points clear at the top of the table, and nine ahead of City. And although there was still a long way to go, it was difficult on this evidence to imagine Liverpool faltering in any capacity, let alone significantly. Indeed, it would ultimately be another sixteen games, and almost four months, before the Reds dropped any points at all.
Match of the Sleigh
26 December 2019, Leicester City 0-4 Liverpool, The King Power Stadium
And so onto the Christmas period, notorious for fixture pile-ups, injuries and losses of form. In this instance, “form” in itself was a notion fast becoming absurd; Liverpool had won sixteen of their seventeen games thus far, statistically the best-ever start to a season in any of the top five European leagues.
On Boxing Day, however, the Reds faced what many believed to be their largest roadblock yet. Managed by Brendan Rodgers, the man who had taken Liverpool to within an infamous slip of the league title in 2014, Leicester City were exceeding pre-season expectations, sitting second in the table, and scoring for fun: the Foxes had shipped five past Newcastle and a record-equalling nine past Southampton earlier in the season. In addition, Liverpool had spent the week before Christmas in Qatar for the Club World Cup, playing a 120-minute final against the energetic Flamengo of Brazil.
Tired legs, jet lag, a Christmas hangover and a youthful, exuberant Leicester side were all valid reasons for Liverpool to struggle at the King Power Stadium. Instead, they provided perhaps their best performance of the entire season. A masterclass from Trent Alexander-Arnold, in which the right-back set up all of the first three goals before drilling home the fourth himself, ensured Liverpool would enter the new year with a double-digits lead at the top of the table. David Armitage of the Mirror summed up the feelings of practically everyone watching:
Champions of Europe. Champions of the World. Surely the coveted Champions of England crown is just around the corner… an agonising 30-year wait for the domestic title seems to be over.
We’re in the Mane
24 February 2020, Liverpool 3-2 West Ham United, Anfield
Another day, another late Liverpool win, and this time another comeback. After a Georginio Wijnaldum header that arguably should’ve been saved by Irons keeper Lukasz Fabianski put the Reds one up, the game flipped with goals from Issa Diop and Pablo Fornals. This was only the second time all season that Liverpool had conceded two goals in a league game, a testament to a rock-solid defence led by reigning PFA Player of the Year Virgil Van Dijk.
It was to be the Reds’ formidable attack that stepped up to snatch this victory, though. Mo Salah claimed the equaliser after a second blunder by Fabianski, fumbling the Egyptian’s low shot between his legs. Then, with nine minutes to go, Sadio Mane, so often the match-winner throughout the season, tapped into an open net after Alexander-Arnold beat Fabianski to a ricocheted shot.
The victory wasn’t just Liverpool’s eighteenth straight league win, an achievement in itself; it was also the side’s twenty-first consecutive win at home, a new Premier League best. The record, which would eventually stretch to 24, was one of many the Reds would set during the 2019/20 campaign, which also include the biggest ever points lead (25) and the fastest team to ever reach 30 victories, as well as equalling the records for the most home wins (18) and most wins overall (32). In the words of The Mirror’s John Cross: “They are just unstoppable”.
Edge of Heaven
24 June 2020, Liverpool 4-0 Crystal Palace, Anfield
“No fans? No problem” wrote the Mirror’s David Maddock about a match that was originally scheduled to take place in mid-March. The worldwide coronavirus had slammed the brakes on Liverpool’s celebrations, but the Reds wasted no time in putting Crystal Palace to the sword in the first game back at Anfield following the Premier League’s restart.
Even in an empty stadium, Liverpool’s attacking play was no less fantastic, the icing on this game’s cake being another rocket from Fabinho, which would later be selected as the inaugural winner of the BBC’s pluralised Goal of the Months.
All images sourced from our personalised Liverpool book
Were it not for the pandemic, Liverpool fans would by this stage have already been celebrating a first ever Premier League title. As it turned out, this match would be their final one as mere challengers; the win meant Manchester City needed to beat Chelsea the following day to keep the season mathematically competitive, something they failed to do. In the process, Liverpool became simultaneously both the latest (by calendar) and earliest (by games played) team to ever win the title. Post-match, Maddock reflected on their incredible league run across the season:
It is why they will be crowned deserved champions this season, sure, but also why they will go down in history as one of the greatest teams in this club’s history. And given that history, it is saying something.