In order to win a Premier League championship, or any championship for that matter, sometimes you have to win ugly or just grind out a win. No matter who you are, those games will come up where they test more than just technique or skill; they test your will and your nerve also.
Yesterday, Liverpool were asked those very questions when they played against Sunderland at Anfield. They won the game 2-1 in the end, but they were forced to endure some nervous moments in the final ten minutes of the game. So far, they have completely outscored most teams with their blistering attack of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, but not this time.
Sunderland managed to keep the scoreline down to just two goals which meant they were able to make it nervous for Liverpool in the closing stages, especially when they got a goal back with 15 minutes to go. Usually Liverpool have been three or four goals ahead at that point and a sloppy goal was nothing but a blot on the copybook. That was not so in this one; it was almost a blot on the history book.
That’s what Liverpool are going for here — history. They have never won the Premier League trophy, and this is a great chance for them to do so. To achieve that, Liverpool are going to have to endure more games like this, though. Sunderland managed to keep the score down by being defensive and playing five defenders at the back. It generally worked quite well for Sunderland manager Gus Poyet.
Sunderland desperately needed the points also, so it wisely decided to do something different than what most other teams have been doing against Liverpool. We’re at the business end of the season now, and most teams desperately need the points themselves, for one reason or another. They’re not going to continue to watch Liverpool rack up goals for fun — not at their expense. Liverpool will have to get used to — both now and next season — teams being very defensive and giving them no space to play.
So far this season, most teams have not been ultra defensive against Liverpool because, like in recent seasons, they all feel like they have a chance against them. Slowly but surely, that feeling is changing, though — and with good reason. So more and more now, teams will start to camp out and defend deep, especially at Anfield, and it could get quite frustrating as games drag on and the scoreline stays at 0-0 or tight at least.
It was always inevitable that would happen and it will make for nights like this one in the future. It’s no different than what Manchester City and Chelsea go through each week. It’s an acceptance from the opposition that they have little chance to win if they play an open, expansive game. It’s a mark of respect to Liverpool more than anything else because of how good they have been this season.
With seven games still to play, there will be more marks of respect shown too and more nervous games because of it. It’s just something Liverpool will have to learn to deal with. They’ll have to if they want to win the Premier League, whether that’s this year or not.