Adam Lallana said Liverpool have developed a feeling “like a sixth sense” that convinces them they can find a way to win even when they look like losing ground in the title race. The more often Liverpool strike late, the stronger that conviction grows, claimed the midfielder.
Lallana was speaking in the wake of Saturday’s dramatic victory by his team at Villa Park, where Liverpool trailed until the 87th minute but ended up winning 2-1, with Sadio Mané scoring the decisive goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time that preserved their six-point lead at the top of the Premier League. It was the third time in a week that Liverpool had come from behind to win, following the 2-1 triumph over Tottenham and the Carabao Cup victory over Arsenal. The Gunners had led 3-1, 4-2 and 5-4 at Anfield, only for Jürgen Klopp’s team to recover each time and prevail in a penalty shootout.
“It’s almost like a sixth sense,” said Lallana. “We knew at half-time [against Villa] that, if we got one goal, it’s going to count. We got it late but we still had time. It doesn’t surprise me that we got a second goal.”
The midfielder said the win over Arsenal fuelled the whole club, even though none of the players who had began that game started at Villa. “We made 11 changes but as a squad you still gain momentum just from being there, even the lads who didn’t play,” he said. “We took that and, even though we weren’t at our best in the first half [at Villa Park], it helps towards the ‘never say never’ [attitude]. We’ve just got that momentum.” Lallana says opponents know it too, making them fearful that Liverpool are going to strike late on again: “Teams worry when it’s late,” he said.
John McGinn, the Villa midfielder, said Liverpool’s relentlessness wore his gallant side down. That was despite the fact he had detected vulnerability among the visitors after Mahmoud Trézéguet put Villa 1-0 up.
“A lot of their players were arguing and you could tell they were uncomfortable in the first half,” said McGinn. “When teams start arguing with each other you normally know you’ve got them. But at the same time you have to respect that they are such a good team they just regroup, get together and go again.”
“They don’t give up, they keep going and they probably tired us out too much right at the end,” continued McGinn. “Chances were coming and we were trying to keep them at bay but the ball just keeps coming back at you. It was two sloppy goals from our point of view but teams like Liverpool do that to you, like Manchester City did [to Villa the previous week]. They just drain you mentally.”
Having seen his team fall to each of the top two within the space of a week the Villa manager, Dean Smith, foresees the title race going down to the wire again. “I think they’ll go toe-to-toe until the end of the season,” he said.