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Kenny Matip arises as Liverpool show off spirit you cannot buy

End of days, just call it all off now. Joel Matip scoring that goal against Leeds United on Wednesday evening is peak football; there is nowhere else for the sport to go from here that can ever be fresh and new after that.

We all knew it was building up to this point. Joël has been setting off on playmaking adventures for ages now, and he has threatened this type of thing before.

When NASA went to the moon, they had a series of preparatory missions that ticked every imaginable box; before Apollo 11 finally made touchdown, Apollo 10 even came to within eight nautical miles of the surface before the astronauts got off home.

In a similar manner, Joël had been taking it upon himself to bomb forward whenever the mood took him, usually a couple of times per game, before opting not to go that extra mile and go for goal, instead laying the ball off.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Liverpool's Joel Matip scores the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is one thing for a central defender to pop up in the opposing penalty area as an imposing threat at set-pieces, but them traversing the full length of the pitch to score is a beautiful rarity. We’ll be talking about this one for as long as we talk of Alisson scoring the winner at West Brom.

Personally, I think one of the biggest things we have become hooked on as Liverpool supporters, within the Jurgen Klopp era, is that potential for the ludicrous. When Joël scored against Leeds, there was the obvious cheer, but then it was followed by highly audible and widespread laughter, that type of laughter that people do before turning to the person next to them to ask, “what have I just seen?”

It is a case of seeing one of your favourite people winning at life in the most out of context ways; there is nothing quite like a cult hero doing something magical to warm the soul. There is a degree of comedy to it, and the only thing comparable is when you fluke a ball or two down at pool or snooker, via all six cushions and a succession of deflections and deviations off other balls.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Liverpool's Joel Matip (L) celebrates with team-mate Virgil van Dijk (R) after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For days on end, you periodically forget all about it but then it randomly pops back into the minds’ eye, and you start laughing all over again. For those of us not feeling so well, there are medicinal properties to be found.

The Kop was so enamoured with what it had just seen that it took the never to be taken lightly step of attaching Joël’s surname to the simple, yet iconic old Ian St John/Kenny Dalglish chant, which was also bestowed upon Robbie Fowler.

Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap, clap-clap, clap-clap. Matip…

It kind of marked the dawning of Kenny Matip.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Liverpool's Joel Matip (L) celebrates with team-mate Mohamed Salah (C) after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A 6-0 victory that could have reasonably been double that amount, Virgil Van Dijk grabbed a late goal of his own, meaning both of our central defenders made the scoresheet on an evening when Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane claimed a brace each.

Honestly, this Liverpool of ours can do whatever it wants, and it is that concept when attached to having that essence of being a cause as much as it is a football club, that so unsettles Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.

They have all the advantages they could possibly shop for at the Etihad, and it might well take them to all the trophies they are still playing for this season, but they will never have as much fun as we do at Anfield, be that on the pitch, on the touchline, or in the stands. FSG aren’t exactly unaware of this either, which is why extra seats will start to appear before too long, above the Anfield Road end as we currently know it.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates, fist pumps, the Kop (Image: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Shrinking what was once a 12-point lead, into just three, when Manchester City wake up each morning their first thought will undoubtedly be Liverpool. We have certain ingredients that cannot be purchased. Potent ingredients that drive our detractors to distraction and win the admiration of more free-thinkers and general observers than we care to imagine.

There were so many other plus points to Wednesday evening too, taken from a game which we started quite erratically.

Alisson was so unemployed we could have hooked him at halftime and replaced him with Divock Origi, I can’t remember a single moment where Trent Alexander-Arnold occupied the part of the pitch that is traditionally reserved for right-backs, as for Andy Robertson, Leeds essentially going one-on-one was the gift of the season, Fabinho, Curtis Jones, and Thiago were occasionally shocked with the amount of space they were allowed, and Luis Diaz looks like he’s been here forever.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (R) celebrates after scoring the sixth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Even those making cameos as substitutes had a ball; Origi had a sedate seven minutes or so to limber up for scoring the winner at Wembley on Sunday, also playing his part in the fifth goal, Jordan Henderson made the interception and laid on Mane for his first goal, while James Milner’s appearance against the club he started out at smacked of that family member who has made something of themselves, in another part of the country, inviting his loved ones to their posh house in the Shropshire countryside for a vaguely uncomfortable weekend.

Although it is a week that ends with a trip to Wembley, to fight it out for the first piece of silverware of the season, all eyes will be on what Guardiola’s response is at Goodison Park, 24 hours earlier, against an Everton side that could slip into the relegation zone before taking to the pitch, if results elsewhere fall into place.

A terrible situation for any self-respecting Blue to be confronted with, I’m sure, but a very interesting one for Reds who will be putting their feet up and reaching for the popcorn.

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