Firmino bids Liverpool farewell by stopping Klopp getting another touchline ban in thrilling draw

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Referee John Brooks disallows Liverpool's goal Credit: Alamy
Referee John Brooks disallows Liverpool's goal Credit: Alamy

Jurgen Klopp was guaranteed to be baited by PGMOL’s masterful choice of referee until Roberto Firmino rescued a point for Liverpool against Aston Villa.


And we all thought PGMOL was a robotic, stony-faced, risible organisation entirely incapable of doing anything deliberate humorous. Then as Jurgen Klopp served the touchline ban imposed after questioning the integrity of Paul Tierney, the fourth official who bore the brunt of the manager’s hostile jubilation during that game against Tottenham was placed in charge instead.

John Brooks had actually tried to rescue Klopp from himself. ‘Mr Brooks contacted Mr Tierney and said, “Jurgen Klopp has just run and
celebrated in my face. I think it’s a yellow card mate, minimum,”‘ read a section from the FA’s Independent Regulatory Commission report.

‘Mr Brooks considered Mr Klopp’s conduct to be misplaced celebration rather than an aggressive or threatening move,’ it continued, but across more than 100 minutes at Anfield the referee became the latest subject of Liverpool’s constant sense of official-based injustice.

The stud marks of Tyrone Mings perhaps still stung on the chest of Cody Gakpo and the fury at a referee using the VAR monitor to check an offside decision and ultimately disallow a home goal had barely subsided by the time Emiliano Martinez tested where the boundaries lie in terms of red cards for a pair of time-wasting bookings, with 10 minutes of second-half stoppage-time simultaneously flying by and dragging on.

Aston Villa will be happy to emerge with one point even if all three had been secured up until the 89th minute. Roberto Firmino’s equaliser capped a period of unfathomable pressure which finally breached a resolute visiting defence. And still the committee have yet to explain how they came up with the figure of £29million to sign him – rarely has money been better spent in these parts.

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino Credit: Alamy
Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino Credit: Alamy

He and James Milner were introduced from the bench for the final half an hour as half of this summer’s four confirmed departures; how saddening yet fitting that neither Naby Keita nor Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could make the matchday squad for their final home games.

There were long periods during which Liverpool could have done with their midfield drive, craft and invention. Aston Villa arrived with a gameplan that was carried out impeccably in the first half and for some of the second, before they eventually lost their grip and were pulled into a match based more on vibes than skill.

While Liverpool plodded around in possession, Villa carried a persistent counter-attacking threat. Ollie Watkins both won and missed a penalty, while John McGinn would have made the observing Sir Kenny Dalglish proud with his masterful buttock usage.

Jacob Ramsey scored the goal Villa deserved, converting a Douglas Luiz cross at the back post. Mings and Ezri Konsa proceeded to show Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk how to barely straddle that high line between defensive calm and calamity.

There was an element of fortune – a first-half incident with Jordan Henderson in the Villa area which could easily have resulted in a penalty; last man Matty Cash tangling with Luis Diaz but going unpunished; the disallowed goal – but that comes with the territory of victory as an away team in this sort of arena.

But so does the need to maintain complete concentration throughout, and Mo Salah exploited a brief lapse by shifting into space wide on the right before crossing to the unmarked Firmino in the centre.

His glorious and emotional sign-off might distract just long enough to dispel any post-match claims of conspiracy, while maintaining Liverpool’s theoretical chances of Champions League qualification and, funniest of all, lifting Villa above Tottenham. The joke really is always on them.

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