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The goal that brought us back – how one Alisson header led Liverpool to Paris

A year on from Alisson‘s incredible headed winner against West Brom, the impact on Liverpool’s fortunes can be felt with a place in the Champions League final…

Sliding door moments often come in monotonous and uneventful shapes and sizes, with consequences that don’t become tangible until a much later date.

Other times, they take your breath away. They remind you what it’s like to feel alive and why it is you invest so much time and energy into any given venture.

Alisson Becker’s 95th-minute header at the Hawthorns on May 16, 2021 unquestionably falls into the latter category, but the domino effect consistent in all of these instances remains at the heart of Liverpool’s quest for greatness.

To use a worn cliche, if a Hollywood writer had scripted it, it would’ve been rejected for being too far-fetched and utopian.

The chance was worth just 0.09xG.

It was a minor miracle that the club’s design team had created a graphic to commemorate an Alisson goal on social media – a piece of work that ought to have never have seen the light of day.

 

“You can’t explain those kinds of things, this is football”

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson headed home Liverpool’s stoppage-time winner at West Brom (Rui Vieira/PA)

The Brazilian, who seldom gives TV interviews, spoke eloquently on a uniquely emotional day, while the rest of us were losing our heads.

Liverpool’s dream of Champions League qualification was still breathing in a season plagued with injuries and empty stadia, in a way that truly cannot be explained.

Very little had fallen in Liverpool’s favour that season.

Having been top at Christmas for a third successive season, the Reds ended a 68-game home unbeaten streak in emphatic fashion with six straight defeats at Anfield, putting themselves out of the title and, seemingly, top-four picture.

It was once again the man between the sticks, as had been the case with a phenomenal stoppage-time save against Napoli in December 2018, who came to the rescue and ensured that Liverpool remained in the conversation.

“We have a strong goal to achieve the Champions League because we won it once, and everything starts with the qualification.”

And what a header it was. Jurgen Klopp described it as “insane technique,” adding that he’d never seen anything like it in all of his years in the game.

Goalkeepers are predominantly brought up for last-minute corners to act as a nuisance or distraction for defenders.

Even in the rare instances where they have found the net from such scenarios, it is typically an equaliser or a cup game, and almost never as significant as this one was and might still turn out to be.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 16, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker celebrates after the winning second goal with a head in injury time during the FA Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion FC and Liverpool FC at The Hawthorns. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

John Achterberg, a man who has taken criticism from some quarters in the past, was able to take the acclaim on a magical afternoon, having given the green light to go forward “with conviction” for what was to be the last act of the game.

Alisson himself has since joked that he is prepared to go up for more corners should the situation require it.

 

The goal that brought us back

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 16, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker (R) celebrates with manager Jürgen Klopp (L) after scoring the winning second goal with a head in injury time during the FA Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion FC and Liverpool FC at The Hawthorns. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Should Liverpool go on to win a seventh European Cup in Paris, that goal ought to be remembered in the same bracket as Gerrard’s stunner against Olympiakos in December 2004.

In the same bracket as that very save against Napoli.

It’s not just in Europe that that goal holds significance for Liverpool. It is impossible to quantify the impact and momentum generated, and the role that has played in their fortunes since.

The 2-1 win over West Brom came in the middle of an eight game-winning run which catapulted a depleted Liverpool from the doldrums to third in the league.

Fast-forward 12 months and Liverpool have reached the climax of one of the greatest seasons in history.

It was very possibly the goal that brought us back.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 13, 2022: Liverpool's Sadio Mané celebrates after scoring the second goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and SL Benfica at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The team and the club are in better shape now than they have ever been, and the position that we find ourselves in is worlds apart from the arduous nature of 2020/21 behind closed doors.

Perhaps that is the only missing piece of an otherwise freakishly perfect winner.

A full away end during that goal and the minutes that followed would have been something to behold, a stark reminder of what football was missing in a season which, aside from that, we would rather forget.

 

Player of the Season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 27: Alisson Becker of Liverpool celebrates their team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Leg One match between Liverpool and Villarreal at Anfield on April 27, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (PUEFA)

The momentum doesn’t just apply to the team’s fortunes either.

Alisson himself has been in the form of his life in 2021/22, quite possibly Liverpool’s player of the season with 20 league clean sheets to his name ahead of the final two games.

The tragic passing of his father less than three months earlier made the goal and everything that came with it all the more remarkable.

The Brazilian clearly holds his faith extremely close to his heart, citing his religion as the only logical explanation for what had taken place and professing that God had “placed his hand on my head.”

No matter where your belief systems lie, it is difficult to argue that some form of divine force had a part to play here.

 

The moments that make it worth it

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 8, 2022: Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop before the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and FC Internazionale Milano at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s moments like this that remind you what you’re in it for.

Trophies will always be the measuring stick but the highs and lows of the journey are what will keep us coming back for more.

“Just enjoy the ride,” were the words of Virgil van Dijk following an unconvincing 2-0 win over Watford in early April.

Some viewed that as a nod to the nervy atmosphere which consumed the ground that day, but regardless of the intentions it has never been more pertinent.

There was no trophy at the Hawthorns following the header, nor at Old Trafford following the 5-0 thumping in October, but these are still moments you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 16, 2021: Liverpool players mob goalkeeper Alisson Becker after he scored an injury time winning goal to sealed a 2-1 victory during the FA Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion FC and Liverpool FC at The Hawthorns. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There were other unexpected heroes during the resurgent end to 2020/21, not least Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, and there were other significant hurdles, including the long-overdue 4-2 win at Old Trafford just three days earlier.

It was a funny time in our Liverpool-supporting lives, but one we can now look back on with fondness as a result of everything that has followed.

No matter what happens in Paris, there is so much to take from this season and the journey it took to get here in the first place.

As always there are humps and bumps on the road, but would we have it any other way?

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