Verdict from Paul Gorst as Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 at Anfield and Kop sends Premier League title message at full time
By Paul Gorst Liverpool FC correspondent
09:03, 20 JAN 2020
As the full-time whistle echoed around Anfield to signal yet another Liverpool victory, a familiar song was being belted out in full voice on the Kop.
"We're gonna win league!" sang the thousands on the stand as Craig Pawson brought the game to an end, sealing a 2-0 win over Manchester United.
It's a terrace anthem that has been sung before of course, more in hope than expectation, but never has it been delivered with quite as much deafening gusto, passion and unshakable belief.
Certainly not this season, at least.
Liverpool fans, with a sixteen-point lead of justification, now feel that this is finally when the interminable wait for a league title reaches the end of the line.
The number 30 has taken on extra significance for the Reds and their supporters this season.
It is the amount of years so far that they have been forced to sit through without a league title triumph.
It is a wait that will now almost certainly be at an end come what May.
For now, though, Reds supporters can simply toast to the number 30 as the points gap between their team and the most historically fierce rivals United.
Thirty points. It is worth repeating.
Never have the Reds enjoyed this kind of inarguable superiority over the Red Devils in the Premier League era.
This won't be the last time Liverpool will be gunning for the biggest prize in English football under Jurgen Klopp, but they won't ever have it all their own way quite as stunningly or as utterly unbelievable as this.
Leicester's 2-1 defeat at Burnley earlier in the day handed the Reds the chance to exert an even stronger grip on proceedings at the top of English football.
It was one they didn't pass up.
A deserved win, thanks to goals from Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah just strengthens the feeling that the name Liverpool will be carved onto the Premier League for the first time.
You won't find Klopp conceding as much just yet but neither City nor Leicester are equipped to take advantage, even if the most ridiculous of crumblings does somehow take place at Anfield.
That much is now merely a formality, surely.
Even for a supporter-base as scarred as Liverpool's, they can breathe freely after their latest three-point pick-up on Sunday evening.
For Reds fans, after three decades of titleless pain, they can now savour what is becoming the most serene of strolls to the long-awaited, almost mythical, No.19.
If the Merseyside derby represents the local skirmish that stirs the city's patrons, then Liverpool's games with United resonate on a global scale.
It is the two most successful teams in the country - the two with the most sizable of worldwide followings - going head to head.
And with Fenway Sports Group chief and Liverpool principal owner John W Henry watching on from the stands, the Reds picked the perfect time to make yet another statement.
The Reds had the opener inside 15 minutes when Van Dijk rose highest to nod home Trent Alexander-Arnold's inviting corner for his fourth goal of the season.
Liverpool thought they had their second when Roberto Firmino beautifully curled home his first of the season at Anfield before the half-hour mark.
However, it was chalked off back in Stockley Park after Van Dijk was harshly adjudged to have fouled goalkeeper David de Gea in the build up.
Some would have you believe that Liverpool's ascent to greatness has been rooted solely in favourable VAR calls but this one was just the latest in a number of video-made decisions that ruled on the wrong side of the Reds.
Van Dijk's jump, perhaps, the most baffling of them all so far from Paul Tierney.
Liverpool encountered VAR teething problems in this reverse fixture back in October when Sadio Mane had a goal ruled out and United's stood despite a late tackle on Divock Origi in the buildup.
Once more, the technology fell on United's side.
The facts, however, are only likely to get in the way of the half-baked conspiracies, so dense 'LiVARpool' wisecracks will continue to be made between now and May, whatever happens.
The Reds thought they had a second through Gini Wijnaldum after a wonderfully threaded pass but the Dutchman was flagged correctly for offside.
No squiggly lines were needed on that one.
After the break Salah spurned a great opportunity to break his Manchester United duck but somehow scuffed Andy Robertson's low cross wide.
Captain Jordan Henderson, who continued his superb form, then rattled the post with a left-footed effort as the home side piled forward in search of the decisive second.
Liverpool looked like a team on a mission to put the game - and the title race - to bed after the restart and pressed forward time and again attempting to double their advantage.
It was tempting to suggest that the white towels would have been thrown in had this been a boxing contest, but this United, in truth, would never be made the mandatory challengers to the world and European title holders.
Seven attempts on goal in nine-second half minutes laid bare just how dominant and forceful Liverpool were, but still the score remained 1-0.
Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer's men even had a great chance to restore parity when the otherwise anonymous Anthony Martial slammed over inside the area.
Mane then should have scored when he went one-on-one with Victor Lindelof before slipping when attempting to shoot at De Gea’s goal on his left foot.
Klopp's response to the profligacy was to send on Adam Lallana for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, before Origi and Fabinho were summoned for in place of Mane and Firmino.
Solsjkaer probably couldn't believe his luck that his side remained in the game inside the final 10 minutes.
His lack of adventure and willingness to take the Reds on was sensible and enough to keep United in with a shout as the game crept into its latter stages.
It's often the hope that kills you though and it was eventually extinguished in the final seconds as Salah slid a second past De Gea on the counter-attack to seal the points.
The sight of Alisson Becker racing from his goalline to celebrate up the other end with Salah conjured memories of Pepe Reina and David Ngog in this fixture 11 years ago.
It meant a lot then, even more so now.
"And now you're gonna believe us..." roared a collectively hoarse Kop at full time.
Most neutrals already have been for some time.
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