Alexander-Arnold issues perfect riposte to Southgate snub by reigniting Liverpool's season

Last Updated
Getty/Goal

Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa: Match Statistics

It was a goal to reignite a season.

And for Trent Alexander-Arnold, the perfect end to a testing few weeks.

If you doubt Liverpool’s right-back, then you’d be best advised to follow a different sport. Form is temporary but class, as they say. is very much permanent.

The Reds’ Scouse superstar certainly showed his class at Anfield on Saturday, his stoppage-time goal giving Jurgen Klopp’s men a 2-1 win over Aston Villa which keeps them firmly in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

Alexander-Arnold’s bullet, fizzed past Emi Martinez, puts Liverpool, temporarily at least, into the Premier League’s top four.

It also ended a run of eight home league matches without a win, stretching all the way back to December. "Finally!" said Mo Salah afterwards. They may be struggling, but they’re still swinging.

The celebrations told their own story. Alexander-Arnold has been under the microscope of late, left out by England and dissected by pundits eager to justify Gareth Southgate’s conservatism.

Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool Aston Villa GFX

No player has been more analysed, more criticised. This was the perfect riposte from the 22-year-old, particularly with Southgate sitting in the stands at Anfield.

His goal bore the hallmark of another home-grown hero, Steven Gerrard. How many times did Gerrard step up for Liverpool in their time of need? How many times did he deliver in front of the Kop?

Alexander-Arnold, generally, is a different player and a different person, but the similarities are striking. Big moment, big player. Technique and tenacity, and bagfuls of character.

Liverpool needed their No.66 here. They had looked like slipping to a seventh consecutive Anfield loss when Ollie Watkins fired Villa into a first-half lead. Watkins scored a hat-trick when the sides met at Villa Park in October, and he hurt the Reds again - though Alisson Becker will feel he should have done better with his shot.

VAR then ruled out, rather bizarrely, a Roberto Firmino equaliser, leaving Klopp and his players baffled at the break. Week by week, the very essence of football is poisoned further by technology.

Liverpool, at least, responded well to the frustration, Salah heading them level 12 minutes after the restart after Andy Robertson’s shot had been parried by Martinez.

That’s 28 in all competitions for the Egyptian this season, who ended a wait of more than 12 hours for an open-play goal in the Premier League at Anfield. "We needed it," Salah said.

Another Egyptian, Trezeguet, hit a post for Villa, while Liverpool’s threat dissipated after a lively start to the second half.

They looked leggy at times, distracted at others. “F***ing hell boys!” roared Robertson as another pass went astray in the closing stages. It looked at that stage as if they had run out of ideas.

The breakthrough would come, though.

Article continues below

Substitutes Thiago and Xherdan Shaqiri combined well on the right. Martinez kept out Thiago’s instinctive effort, but he didn’t get near Alexander-Arnold’s follow-up. Too good, and too important, as far as Liverpool are concerned.

They slither on. Still in the hunt domestically, they need another famous Champions League comeback here against Real Madrid on Wednesday if they are to book a place in the semi-finals, and with it a likely showdown with Chelsea.

For now, though, they will enjoy this. In a season of suffering, Alexander-Arnold ensured they went home happy this time.