Richard Buxton: This Liverpool have been assembled to last the distance
Expect Reds to continue pushing City
|(Sadio Mane 17, 82)|
The arc of history may bend towards justice, but Liverpool's wait for the English Premier League title continues.
Even in a week of footballing miracles, expecting Brighton & Hove Albion to end a winless run stretching back over two months against Manchester City was always going to be a step too far.
Juergen Klopp's side signed off a remarkable campaign in which they have defied both logic and expectations with a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers last night to take their final points tally to 97.
And yet, Anfield's 29 years of domestic hurt will continue for another 12 months at least.
City's additional point shows just how fine the margin really can be, especially when their closest challengers lost just once all season and previously held a seven-point advantage.
Between them, Liverpool and City have produced a more enthralling spectacle than Game of Thrones.
The "Battle for Winterfell" has nothing on what Klopp's players and their counterparts at the Etihad Stadium created. People could not stop talking about this duel for supremacy.
And last night was no different. There was no escaping every snippet of news from the Amex Stadium.
Brighton's opener sparked scenes of delirium while City's goals triggered anxieties. A lack of clarity caused by phantom updates left everyone in the stadium permanently on edge.
Title races tend to be won as marathons rather than sprints, but the men from Merseyside have kept pace with Pep Guardiola's back-to-back champions by combining both.
Adrenaline, however, is not long-lasting. Klopp acknowledged as much before this game.
The Reds finished seven points better off than Arsenal's "Invincibles" and 19 points superior to Newcastle's "Entertainers". But history will not bestow any memorable monikers upon them.
Because this Liverpool team will simply not go down as another single-season wonder.
Sentimentality breeds naivety; a cursory glance at Manchester United proves as much.
In the past, their arch-rivals were guilty of it themselves especially where the EPL was concerned. Previous title tilts ranged from brilliant to bumbling and downright middling, but were all built on sand.
Each team were fantastic yet flawed; awe-inspiring invariably came with an asterisk.
After the shortfalls of 2009 and 2014, Liverpool's various talismans were plucked away within successive seasons. But Anfield's current crop has been assembled to last the distance.
Last May's Champions League final defeat exposed familiar flaws; a side indebted to their free-scoring front man that failed to function in his absence. Klopp's summer rebuilding task fashioned a well- rounded squad and subsequently removed that long-standing stigma.
The comeback against Barcelona was living proof. In the absence of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi stepped up to deliver another set of match-winning heroics.
Virgil van Dijk's acquisition at the start of last year has, similarly, shored up a once porous defence, with the Holland captain crowned the EPL's Player of the Season ahead of kick-off.
Upon his 2015 arrival, Klopp prophesied that Liverpool would win a trophy within four years, otherwise his "next one may be in Switzerland". But the German will not need to seek sanctuary in the Alps just yet, even if his side finish this season empty-handed.
At the outset, he has striven to unchain Liverpool from their lengthy obsession with history; something which confronts you routinely on casual stroll through the streets around Anfield. Numerous local hostelries have been renamed in honour of Bob Paisley, the Boot Room and Glenbuck, Bill Shankly's birthplace.
Even those old enough to live through the euphoria of a memorable Champions League triumph in 2005 have now themselves come of age.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was a mere schoolboy when the miracle of Istanbul took place and became the hero of the hour with his quick-thinking corner against Barcelona in midweek.
In just under three weeks, the fullback could finally emulate his childhood heroes.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Matip, Robertson (Gomez 82), Wijnaldum (Oxlade-Chamberlain 88), Henderson, Fabinho, Salah, Mane, Origi (Milner 64)
WOLVES: Patricio, Doherty (Traore 81), Bennett, Coady, Boly, Otto (Vinagre 84), Moutinho (Gibbs-White 84), Neves, Dendoncker, Jota, Jimenez