For me to say that the stage had been set for this goal would be like saying the sky is green and the grass is blue. There was no stage construction during the 2013/14 season for Liverpool. When a venue puts up a stage, it is through the expectation that an act will follow. Yet, contrary to what people might say, pundits and fans alike, nobody expected Liverpool to crash the party. A drab season the year before lead people to believe that Liverpool would struggle to penetrate the top 4, let alone finish any higher. Yet, here we were.
Watching this game at my own humble abode, the House of Trouser (inspired by the ‘Neighbours’ house of the same name), we did the usual. Get the beers in, invite a couple of the lads (#ladsladslads) round and hope for the best. It has been a year of hoping for the best, and most of the time we had gotten exactly that: the best.
Coming into this game though, the landscape was different. Liverpool fans, never avoiding the chance to get a bit cocky and overly excited in seasons passed, got dead cocky and very excited. I think I professed that we would do to City exactly what we did for Arsenal at home, and basically send them packing at half time. Stupid, hey?
By half time we had, almost, done to City what we had done to Arsenal at home, and basically sent them packing. Sterling scored early to allow emotions to take over, followed by a goal from Skrtel that made sure there wasn’t a humble face to be found on any Liverpool fan.
During proceedings I probably said something else about us winning the league, something nonsensical about us being the best team in the world and no doubt something homoerotic about Jordan Henderson. The whole of the North West had gone into meltdown, and we all presumed we had won. Stupid, hey?
After half time, City came out of the blocks and quickly got the score back to 2-2. Ah, the inevitable fall from grace. The vintage Liverpool fall from grace.
After all of the previous confidence I can barely put into words how much I thought we had lost this game. Manchester City were absolutely battering us and it only looked a matter of time before they got a third, and maybe even a fourth goal. Then Liverpool get a throw-in deep inside City’s half.
The throw in gets aimless launched into the box by Glen Johnson, beating no-one and failing to reach a red shirt. The ball, headed backwards in the box from Clichy, heads towards the boot of Kompany. Dependable, solid, classy Kompany. It is worth mentioning that at this time, most football fans, myself included, thought Vincent Kompany was the best defender in the world. He has it all. Pace, strength, awareness and an ability to head the ball. Of which he will have wished he did then. Instead he launched an almighty volley towards the ball that was mistimed and pinged across to find a red shirt. The red shirt of Philippe Coutinho.
A back story to Philippe Coutinho’s goal-scoring record would lead you to hope that no ball would ever fall on the volley to Coutinho. Skilful on the ball and tenacious when closing down, Coutinho’s worst attribute is his shooting. And this is what makes this goal the best goal I’ve ever witnessed.
The best defender in the world messes up and the ball lands to one of the worst strikers of the ball on the pitch who controls his volley perfectly and hammers it hard and low past a helpless and probably confused Joe Hart.
Another massive reason that this goal was the greatest I’ve ever seen was the elation. Loads and loads of elation. Grown men jumping up and down in my living room, banging on walls and throwing beers all over the shop. Booze stains on my carpet, booze stains on my sofa. Yet I did not give one solitary s***. For when the football God’s gift you a goal, you don’t think twice about wrecking your living room, you just let the joy flow.
At one point I was screaming, another point there was a piley-on. Grown lads, doing a piley-on. Not in public, but in private. In the comfort of a living room. Ecstatic and energised, pileying on down.
Look up to the screen and the team are celebrating, and they’re doing a piley-on too. Liverpool fans all over the world, all in a pile. What a time to be alive.
The strike was sweet, by Christ it was sweet, but the feeling of wonder was one that encapsulated the whole season. Football should always be fun, and Coutinho had brought that back to us. We had beaten the current Champions in our back-yard and in the process scored a goal that will live long in my memory as being the best I’ve ever seen at Anfield. Get in.