Liverpool celebrate derby win and the goal that keeps the title race alive (for now)
LIVERPOOL, England -- It's not just the red-shirted masses inside Anfield who should have been toasting Divock Origi following his stoppage time winner for Liverpool against Everton.
Some goals mean more than others and carry a greater significance than what they mean over 90 minutes -- or 96 minutes, in the case of this dramatic Merseyside derby. Just ask Jurgen Klopp. His crazy celebration, when he ran 40 yards onto the pitch before jumping for joy with goalkeeper Alisson Becker, was not simply because Liverpool had beaten Everton.
This has become the most one-sided big derby in football, so Klopp is accustomed to beating Everton. The reason he celebrated so wildly was because Origi's goal kept Liverpool alive and kicking in the Premier League title race and his outpouring of emotion was a mixture of joy and relief.
"I have to apologise because I didn't want to be disrespectful but I couldn't stop myself," Klopp said. "It just happened!
"If I could describe it [how he feels] then I would have control over it."
Aside from thousands of disconsolate Evertonians and those of a blue persuasion in Manchester, Origi's header -- which came six minutes into what had supposed to be four minutes of stoppage time -- was a goal that might just be regarded by everyone else as the one that keeps the 2018-19 title race alive. We're still not even at the halfway stage of the season, but with City showing signs of invincibility at the top of the table, any failure by Liverpool to beat their neighbours at Anfield on Sunday would have given the champions at least a four-point cushion -- five, if Everton had won at Anfield for the first time since 1999.
City have only dropped four points in 14 games already this season and they will drop more between now and May, but giving them a four-point advantage in the first week of December would leave the chasing pack with virtually no margin for error over the second half of the season.
Third-placed Chelsea are already seven points off the pace, with Unai Emery's resurgent Arsenal a point further behind in fourth despite being unbeaten in the Premier League since August. Both Chelsea and Arsenal have made hugely impressive starts to the season under new managers in Maurizio Sarri and Emery respectively, but nobody really believes they can beat City to the title. And so, it's all down to Liverpool, which is why they simply couldn't afford to drop points against Everton.
As early as it is, being four points behind one of the best teams ever seen in the Premier League era would feel like an unbridgeable gap, even though Liverpool have conceded just five goals in the league all season.
Under Klopp, Liverpool are on course for their best-ever Premier League campaign, but it still might not be enough to beat City to the title. That is why every point counts, but the value of Origi's goal will mean much more than three points to Klopp and his players.
Despite their ability to keep pace with City at the top, Liverpool are clearly not firing on all cylinders right now. If they are struggling for energy or belief, winning a derby in such dramatic circumstances will give them a massive boost.
Mohamed Salah has yet to come close to repeating last season's incredible goal-scoring form while Roberto Firmino has now scored just two goals in his last 14 games for Liverpool. Both forwards were substituted against Everton, which highlights their current level of performance, but the fact that Liverpool are still on City's coat-tails without Salah and Firmino in top form will offer encouragement for when the tide inevitably turns in their favour.
Without Origi's winner against Everton, time would have been running out for Salah and Firmino to rediscover their form to fire Liverpool closer to City. But Liverpool can now travel to Burnley on Wednesday with their hopes still intact and their front two, they hope, one game closer to emerging from their slump.
Origi's goal also ensures that the cracks in Liverpool's game can be papered over, perhaps even giving Klopp more time to resolve them. They still lack creativity in midfield but they also missed the industry and drive of the suspended captain Jordan Henderson and the old-school nous of James Milner, who was named among the substitutes. Both are likely to return at Burnley in a game which Liverpool should win comfortably, especially after the morale boost they earned by beating Everton.
Psychologically, this win will propel Liverpool forward. It may not knock City off their stride but while Liverpool continue to breathe down their necks, the prospect at least remains alive.
"If you drop points that is how it is," Klopp said. "Nobody thought about the situation in the title [race]. We only wanted to win that game."
That may be the case but having won it, Klopp knows that Sunday's win, and Origi's goal, was all about the title. Liverpool will face another challenge like this one and might fall short on a different day but without Origi's winner at Anfield, they really would have been running out of chances to catch City.