The stage was set, halfway up The Kop and enveloped by the storied banners that usually sway in the famed stand.
Liverpool duly served up a show before heading up the steps to confirm a destiny that was designed when Jurgen Klopp walked into the club 1749 days ago.
The champions of England had edged out Chelsea in a supremely entertaining affair, “closing the circle” as their manager cleverly put it. The ghosts of near misses past had been exorcised and this was Liverpool’s moment to soak it all in: to surround the trophy they’ve coveted for three decades and consider the scale of their achievements.
Wrapping up the league title felt like a formality since the turn of the year, with the biggest impediment to the Merseysiders being the coronavirus-enforced suspension of football.
They’ve had no equals – not even close – in the campaign. Liverpool secured their status of England’s best nearly a month ago – the earliest winners in history – and have had to wait an age for their crowning glory.
And they were not alone. A late decision from the local Safety Advisory Group allowed an extra 200 people inside Anfield, with families able to share this special occasion with their loved ones.
Before the fireworks, the light show and Jordan Henderson’s shuffle, they were treated to a footballing spectacle.
By 43 minutes, Chelsea were 3-0 down. The fact they were shadowed 30 points away from the champions before kick off told. But as Klopp emphasised pre-match, the distance between the teams in the table is hardly ever illustrated through a full meeting.
This was such an occasion and fed into Frank Lampard’s assertion that Chelsea have proven they can compete with Liverpool in one-off games.
Naby Keita ignited an evening of chef’s kiss goals. Gini Wijnaldum and the Guinea international combined to thieve possession off Willian 30 yards out. Keita drove forward and delivered a scorcher into the top right corner.
Trent Alexander-Arnold also drew applause and gasps, curling a free-kick over the wall and nestling it in the same area.
Chelsea’s weaknesses on corners was next to be exposed, with Andy Robertson’s ball towards the near post striking Mateo Kovacic’s arm. The visitors stopped playing momentarily, but Wijnaldum didn’t and volleyed in Liverpool’s third.
It was shaping up to be a thankless night for Lampard’s charges, but to their credit they were resilient in an encounter that encouraged chance creation – and they never stopped coming.
Just before the interval, Alisson thwarted Willian with a top reaction save, but the ball fell to Oliver Giroud and he forced it over the line from close range.
When Roberto Firmino got his first league goal at Anfield in the second half, heading in Alexander-Arnold’s stellar cross, it looked like curtains for Chelsea.
But Lampard reacted strongly, removing Giroud, Mason Mount and Willian for the talents of Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic.
The trio linked up with immediate and decisive effect. Pulisic twisted and turned, trumping three markers as he broke into the box and teed up Abraham, who converted from close range.
The American international, a game-changer that Klopp knows well having nurtured him at Borussia Dortmund, displayed excellent feet and decision-making again.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez uncharacteristically collided, allowing Hudson-Odoi to stream the right. He sent a cute ball into the middle, which Pulisic bent to his will with his back to goal.
With great composure, he took his time to turn and finesse a tasty finish into the top corner.
Chelsea’s comeback was strangled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal that was wonderfully crafted by Andy Robertson’s run and cross as well as a dummy from Curtis Jones.
Liverpool were already to be winners on the night, but they were on the scoreboard too. They extended their Premier League record run to 59 consecutive matches unbeaten at home, toasting to a phenomenal season in fine fashion.
Now, it was time for the fireworks and time for the trophy. The time they’ve all been waiting for.
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