Coronavirus: The Final Twist In Liverpool’s Premier League Title Tale
The delay to Liverpool’s title celebrations caused by the coronavirus was just the latest twist in the tale of the Reds’ 30-year wait to be crowned champions of England.
A stunning run of 26 wins and one draw from their opening 27 games of the Premier League season ensured Jurgen Klopp’s men were champions-elect long before football was shut down in March.
Despite some self-interested calls to “null and void” the season by those closer to the bottom of the table, UEFA’s insistence that any leagues not completed on the pitch should be decided on “sporting merit” meant Liverpool would not be denied their title.
The return of the Premier League even allowed them to seal it themselves rather than by votes via video conference.
Liverpool were crowned champions on Thursday after Manchester City fell 2-1 at Chelsea.
It is not the way fans would have chosen to seal the deal and there will be no celebrations to match those following Liverpool’s sixth European Cup win last year.
Klopp has promised a parade when it is safe to hold one but, in delivering the title, he has already banished the demons that haunted Liverpool for so many years.
AFP looks at Liverpool’s near misses.
Like Klopp, Rafa Benitez also delivered the Champions League to Anfield.
However, the Premier League eluded the Spaniard as the pressure of a thrilling title race in 2008/09 against old foes Manchester United and Alex Ferguson caused Benitez to crack.
Liverpool were top of the table in January when Benitez turned a routine pre-match press conference into an astonishing tirade against Ferguson.
Benitez reeled off a series of “facts” highlighting Ferguson’s behaviour towards referees and complaints about fixture scheduling after the Scot claimed Liverpool would get nervous in the run-in.
“I could not believe what I was hearing,” wrote then Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in his autobiography. “I was grabbing the couch, digging my fingers into the arms, feeling embarrassed for him.”
Liverpool went on to draw the next three games, handing the advantage in the title race to United and could not recover despite winning 10 of their final 11 league games, including a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford.
– Gerrard’s slip –
Five years on, Liverpool were even closer to the title, with destiny in their own hands just three games from the end of the season.
An 11-game winning run had propelled Brendan Rodgers’s men to the top of the table ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Anfield.
Jose Mourinho even rested most of his key players, with the clash falling between the two legs of Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid.
But one moment of ill-fortune famously cost Gerrard his last chance of winning a league title for his boyhood club as his slip allowed Demba Ba to open the scoring.
Mourinho then revelled in spoiling the party as Chelsea held out before breaking away in stoppage time to add a second when former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres teed up Willian.
Liverpool’s implosion was complete eight days later when they let a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace go to draw 3-3 and allow Manchester City to claim the title by two points.
97 points not enough
The gap between City and Liverpool was even smaller last season as Klopp’s men missed out despite amassing the third-highest points tally in English football history.
Only City’s century of points in 2017/18 bettered the 98 they posted in retaining the title, with Liverpool’s 97 only good enough for second place.
Previous Liverpool sides of the past three decades have been broken by falling short.
This team showed they were made of sterner stuff by bouncing back to win the Champions League straight away and then streaking clear of City.