Many thought that Leeds would sack their manager, Jesse Marsch, last week after the home defeat to Fulham. Instead, they chose to spare him. Or at least give him a stay of execution. And last night at Anfield, the people who kept their manager in a job, even though his team had not won for eight league games when yesterday dawned, got their reward.
It was not just the three points that Leeds earned at Liverpool with a superb last-gasp 2-1 victory that was their reward. It was the way they earned those points. Even before Crysencio Summerville poked in the winner on the stroke of full time to send the visiting fans behind the goal into raptures, Leeds had done enough to deserve the win. One off the bottom of the league when the game began, they had played with the spirit of champions.
So it wasn’t just the three points. It was the chaotic beauty of the way they earned it. It was the hunger they showed, it was the ambition they showed, it was the daring they showed, it was the skill and the promise. It was the refusal to accept a draw. It was the determination to keep going and going and going until they got what they deserved.
Maybe this is not fair to Marsch but this was a Leeds performance redolent of the heady days when Marcelo Bielsa was in charge, when anything seemed possible and no opponent seemed too big to take down. The hard truth for Liverpool is that Leeds were the better side. This was not a fluke. It reflected the run of play. It reflected intent.
The only way is up for Leeds. Liverpool’s path forward is more uncertain. They have now lost to the league’s bottom two clubs in successive matches and are marooned in mid-table. As their fans stormed out of the ground, they smashed their fists on the walls in furious impotence. This is not the Liverpool of old. This is a Liverpool that runs down blind alleys and misplaces passes and loses its men and scuffs its shots.
And most worryingly for Jurgen Klopp, the evidence of this match showed that Leeds played as if they were hungrier than Liverpool. This is a Liverpool side built on hunger, a team that runs on hunger, a team that has won a title on hunger and a Champions League on hunger. Last night, they just looked tired. They looked played out.
It is only a little over two years ago when Leeds came to Anfield and delivered one of the most brilliant and startling opening day performances a Premier League season has ever seen. They lost a magnificently chaotic game 4-3 but the ambition and the freedom with which they played on their return to the top flight after a 16-year gap won a legion of new admirers.