As Liverpool travelled to Stamford Bridge on Saturday there was a lot of discussion about the form of Liverpool’s number 10, Philippe Coutinho. In what has been a difficult start to the season for the ever so talented Brazilian, he certainly showed his worth and importance against the current champions.
Form dips happen to everyone and especially younger players. Despite Coutinho being Liverpool’s best player on reputation he will go through periods of struggle. He’s only 23 years of age and still adapting to the English game. There were a group of supporters who perhaps thought maybe it was a game to leave him out. He hadn’t shown anything all season except the stunning winner back on the opening day of the new season against Stoke City, so the calls to perhaps give him a rest were certainly warranted. Although, big players step up in big games and that’s exactly why I was against the idea of dropping him from the starting XI for the trip to Chelsea.
As the game got underway we saw Liverpool go behind courtesy of a Ramires header only four minutes into the game which made Coutinho’s performance all the more important.
My biggest criticism of this Liverpool side in recent months is what have they got when they go a goal behind? It’s all good and well taking the lead and going onto win, but I haven’t seen enough come from behind wins in the last few months.
Being a goal behind gave Liverpool the perfect opportunity to show the world that there is character within the side and it also gave them the chance to put a marker down. No matter what people say about Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea this season they are still a tough nut to crack. Liverpool had not beaten Chelsea for a number of years before Saturday night which made the trip even more tricky.
As half time approached at the Bridge, Liverpool were in desperate search for a spark of magic to produce an equaliser and that happened to come from the little magician himself, Coutinho. Shifting the ball onto his left and bending it past Asmir Begovic, it was a sign that he had found a little bit of his old self in the space of seconds. That goal changed the game and gave him the confidence for the second half.
You could see as the second half progressed that the goal on the stroke of half time gave Coutinho the energy and belief to run and press even harder than he usually would.
With the game locked at 1-1 Christian Benteke came on as a substitute to try and give Liverpool a focal point up front. With Benteke being a big and powerful player it allowed Liverpool to play long ball football to try and get runners such as Coutinho into the game even more and that certainly happened. After Benteke brought down a pass that came out of Liverpool’s defensive half, Coutinho swooped and slotted it past Begovic to give the Reds the lead. When he ran off and celebrated with the travelling Kop you could see what it meant to him and the rest of the squad.
It was the game winner in the end and Liverpool walked away from the Bridge with all three points for the first time in a long time. It’s without a doubt a big confidence booster for everyone within the club. It’s been a tough start to the season and to win comfortably will certainly lift the players, but in particular Coutinho.
It looked as if he hasn’t particularly been enjoying his football in recent weeks. It just wasn’t happening for him but you could see on the pitch he was working as hard as ever. To see him get two goals in such a big match will no doubt bring a smile to all Liverpool supporters.
Going forward for the rest of the season Liverpool need those type of performances from Coutinho more consistently. He is the difference for Liverpool more times than not. I’ve always lived by the saying that when he plays well, Liverpool play well. He is a completely different player to former number 7, Luis Suarez, but he has taken over his role of becoming the main man at Anfield. He wants to be the guy who takes the game by the scruff of its neck and produce the big moments for the Anfield faithful. If Liverpool are to challenge for a top four spot then he certainly will have a big say in it come May.
Written by Lachlan Ballingall