Diogo Jota is Liverpool's only hope for a strong end to season

04 April 2021 12:30

The way Liverpool were clipping speculative passes into unmarked spaces and trotting around the pitch for the opening hour on Saturday night, you'd have thought they had all the time in the world to score a goal.

Unfortunately for the Reds, they'd only been given 90 minutes to break down Arsenal, and that feat looked less and less likely with each passing second.

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This concerning flaw has crept into their game during this miserable title defence, and any Liverpool supporter will tell you, the longer the game remains goalless, the more the feeling grows that these players don't have a clue how to create a scoring chance.

Everything Liverpool did during the first hour looked complicated. Even against an Arsenal side which set up with no intention of scoring, the Reds just couldn't click into gear or create that golden chance.

That golden chance, by the way, used to arrive four or five times a match when Jurgen Klopp's men were dispatching teams with ease 18 months ago. Instead, tempers were beginning to flare, agitation was spreading through the squad, and ideas were at a bare minimum.

And so, Klopp turned to a man who'd only arrived this summer, and one whom many thought would play a peripheral role in a side which was seemingly concrete in selection from goalkeeper to the front three.

Diogo Jota came onto the pitch after 61 minutes with the scores all square. Less than three minutes later, the Portuguese forward had powered Liverpool into the lead, reminding everyone just how different this season might have been had he not missed the majority through injury.

The 24-year-old darted off the back of his marker, made a pocket of space for himself in the box, and then rose to meet Trent Alexander-Arnold's pinpoint cross - the first delivery that had truly been attacked all evening.

That was Jota's fourth consecutive headed goal for club and country, a surprise trait he has added to his armoury. With that goal, the forward summoned his teammates from the dead, and just as Mohamed Salah sensed the talk switching away from him, the Egyptian sparked into life.

Jota's presence on the pitch was enough to keep Salah on his toes, and he did what he does best, embarrassing defenders and finishing with unerring ease.

But this was Jota's night, and he was not to be outdone.

Arriving late into the box, the forward charged onto Mane's heavy touch, and whether the Senegalese forward liked it or not, he was going to surrender that chance up to the latecomer. Jota made no mistake, rattling an unstoppable shot beyond Leno and putting a nice gloss on the 3-0 scoreline.

And that was how the match ended. For half an hour, it looked as though Arsenal had dragged Liverpool down to their level and forced them to submit to chronic boredom. But the Gunners did not account for one thing: the return of Jota.

The Liverpool star is the only man who looks capable of creating or taking opportunities at the moment, and when he's off the pitch, the team slumps into a sleep-walking pace from back to front.

It may feel as though this season has gone for the Reds, but there is so much left to fight for.

Champions League qualification is the number one priority, and Saturday's victory keeps that dream alive. And let's not forget, they could secure their place in Europe's biggest competition next year, by winning the trophy this time round.

The league form suggests that shouldn't be possible, but with Jota in this form and in the side, anything is possible.

Source: 90min