REDEMPTION for Liverpool at long last.
When captain Jordan Henderson scaled the steps of the Kop for Kenny Dalglish to hand him Liverpool’s first title trophy in 30 years they could not have chosen a more fitting opponent than Frank Lampard’s Londoners to mark the occasion.
And to defeat them in such dismissive style and dent their Champions League qualifications hopes in the process will have been particularly sweet for some of their players, staff and many of their supporters.
Chelsea have been a pest to Liverpool’s title and trophy hopes on more than one occasion in recent decades and the arrival of Roman Abramovich and his billions 17 years ago sent the proud Anfield club off course for quite some time.
The infamous Steven Gerrard slip that led to them blowing the title against Chelsea in 2014 was just one incident in a catalogue of controversy on and off the pitch.
Chelsea fans still celebrate that match, even though the result handed the title to Man City. Prior to that they had met a remarkable 24 times in all competitions between 2004-05 and 2008-09 and often there was more than just professional pride on the line.
There was even that shock horror moment when Gerrard handed in a transfer request he later retracted amid Chelsea’s interest after their Miracle in Istanbul Champions League victory in 2005.
But last night showed once and for all that Liverpool have closed the gap and ended the rivalry, at least for now. The impressive fireworks we heard and saw from outside the stadium, where Liverpool fans had been asked NOT to congregate, were testament to that.
Lampard’s loose defence conceded three goals before half-time and although an Olivier Giroud strike gave Chelsea a glimmer of help just before the break, Liverpool did not rest on their lead and scored a wonder fourth goal from Firmino ten minutes into the second period. It could and should have been a greater lead by then and Tammy Abraham pulling one back for Chelsea again was perhaps more than they deserved on the night.
A loudly buzzing plane, a feature at games in lockdown it seems, displayed a message that read ‘CONGRATS CHAMPIONS YNWA#BAHRAIN’ early on in the game. A sign of the times, perhaps, but the fireworks were much more authentic.
The same can be said of the red flares that greeted the team bus as a dozen or so fans gathered outside Anfield. It was not what the authorities wanted to see, but was not particularly untoward. After all, the locals were wearing flares rather than firing them up the last time they won the league. The size of the crowd outside the ground towards the end of the match. Judging by the noise and pictures on social media, would need some proper policing however.
Chelsea did not gift Liverpool this win and their rivalry will show what it meant to them. Lampard needed a point to guarantee a top four finish in his first season as a Premier League manager and their fight back was convincing, especially after the introduction of the brilliant Christian Pulisic who scored their third goal with just over 15 minutes to go.
The really good goals had come from Liverpool, however, who opened the scoring through a long range Naby Keita strike after 23 minutes. Lampard and Klopp were involved in a touchline argument over the free kick that Trent Alexander Arnold scored a spectacular second from 15 minutes later.
Chelsea keeper Kepa could have been positioned better to defend from a full 30 or so yards out but there was nothing he could do to prevent Gini Wijnaldum’s blast into the roof of the net on 43 minutes to complete a classic Liverpool build-up.
Giroud’s 45th minute effort was a poacher’s special following some less than convincing defending.
Firmino’s 55th minute header was a great header from an inch-perfect Alexander-Arnold cross.
There was a serious danger after that Liverpool would blow it as the firework display went into overdrive and Abraham and Pulisic goals left Klopp’s men hanging on.
But the german made the decisive switch of withdrawing former Chelsea striker Mo Salah and sending on ex-Arsenal attacking midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
And it was the England international who write himself a piece in Anfield folklore with a fabulous fifth at the end of a trademark blistering counter attack with six minutes to go. A Premier League medal to go with a Champions League gong for the likeable winger who left London for Liverpool in search of glory ahead of fortune three years ago.
Those are the sort of characters Klopp has based Liverpool’s return to the top on and now it remains to see how long they stay their before the likes of Lampard and his Blues Brothers can celebrate such feats again.
There was a nice touch long after the final whistle when members of the Liverpool player’s families were allowed into the arena to witness the trophy presentation after an 11th hour special dispensation was granted by the lockdown authorities.