You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall & Oates was a strange choice of song to play in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool’s title chase ending in unrewarded victory. It may prove prophetic in Madrid on 1 June but only the opening line – “What I want, you’ve got” – reflected the reality here. This was a show of pride laced with thoughts of what might have been, not dreams coming true.
Fittingly, Liverpool remained defiant to the end as a day of hope ended with confirmation they would be the best team not to win the Premier League. Ninety-seven points; enough to have been crowned champions of England in 116 of the previous 119 seasons. A Golden Glove award for Alisson, who set a Liverpool record of 21 clean sheets in his debut campaign. A share of the Golden Boot for 22-goal Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané. The presentations on the pitch kept the atmosphere buoyant and were reflections of Liverpool’s outstanding campaign. Victory over Wolves made it two consecutive seasons without a home defeat. But “it” was missing.
Barcelona on Tuesday changed everything, of course, and the Kop hit back with a stirring rendition of We Shall Not Be Moved – the European Cup version – when the Wolves’ support celebrated Manchester City’s win at Brighton with a chorus of “Raheem Sterling, he’s top of the league”. The comeback of all comebacks here last Tuesday offers Jürgen Klopp and his players another opportunity to claim a magnificent prize in keeping with their quality, character and effort. “The biggest jump in development I can remember,” the Liverpool manager said.
Klopp was last on to the pitch for the lap of appreciation after the final whistle, doffing his baseball cap to all sides and beating the Liver Bird on his jacket. But he made no attempt to disguise the fact that disappointment accompanied pride on the final day. His quiet, flat press conference captured the occasion well. “If I said all the positive things I could about this team I would be sat here until an hour before the Champions League final,” he said. “But this is not the moment for that. It is disappointing. It is not a wonderful moment but we have enough time to feel what a brilliant season it was.”
But for Divock Origi’s late winners against Newcastle and Barcelona in the preceding days this could have been a deflating affair from the start. The striker ended the afternoon filming the Kop singing his name.
Pride would have remained intact, yet tinged by the absence of solid silver reward. Instead, with a Premier League and Champions League double still alive before kick-off, Wolves’ visit carried the air of a cup final celebration. Liverpool flags fluttered from cars on the drive up to Anfield. The “Never Give Up” T-shirt that Salah wore on Tuesday had become a must‑have fashion item by Sunday. Red and white balloons formed an archway over the door of the Willow Bank pub.
A thunderous noise greeted Mané’s 21st league goal of the season but that was eclipsed by the reaction when confirmation came that Brighton had taken the lead against City. It was a strange few minutes that had the end result of Klopp shaking his head in disapproval and disrupting the Liverpool performance.
In the 25th minute, a pocket of fans in the main stand erupted in celebration. A false alarm, one that felt out of place in a smartphone world but 90 seconds later the joy was for real when Glenn Murray scored at the Amex Stadium. This time all of Anfield erupted … for 81 seconds until Sergio Agüero equalised.
There was then a second false goal celebration before the Wolves contingent took great delight breaking the news of Aymeric Laporte heading City into a crucial lead on the south coast.
For the remaining seven minutes of the first half, played out to a backdrop of Wolves chants about a team in the Champions League final winning sweet FA, Liverpool’s focus was disturbed again. Matt Doherty had a chance to equalise as the visitors finished strongly. His shot beat Alisson, but smacked the crossbar. Diogo Jota had two excellent opportunities to equalise in the second half but Liverpool’s goalkeeper was in no mood to give up a record-breaking clean sheet.
As news of City’s third and fourth came through, Anfield felt deflated but not the team, who rediscovered their focus to seal a 30th win of a campaign featuring one defeat.
Klopp’s tactical shift to install greater defensive solidity has been a resounding success – 22 goals conceded is a record for Liverpool in the Premier League era – and provides a foundation for next season. “We go again,” he said repeatedly.
But first Madrid, where ample consolation lies.