Football News

Liverpool’s second-half mentality monsters go four points clear at top of Premier League

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:28, 21 February 2024

Liverpool relied on another strong second-half performance as they beat Luton 4-1 to go four points clear atop the Premier League table.

Due to their participation in the EFL Cup final at the weekend, Liverpool were playing their game against Luton early, giving them the chance to put down the marker. With Manchester City dropping points at the weekend, Liverpool took a bit more control of the title race, knowing it was in their own hands.

Even with Man City closing the gap on Tuesday, as long as Liverpool won their remaining games — and only needing a draw against Pep Guardiola’s side — they’d finish the season as champions.

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Things didn’t start well at Anfield, however. Welcoming Luton, Liverpool were heavy favourites, even with Luton causing some of the bigger sides problems this season.

The visitors took the lead in the 12th minute through Chiedozie Ogbene, who nodded the ball in at the far post after Caoimhín Kelleher didn’t get enough on Tahith Chong’s effort. It was just the eighth time Luton had scored the opening goal in the Premier League this season, and the 11th time Liverpool had conceded first.

Considering Liverpool had never lost a home league game against Luton, and had lost just one of their last 54 Premier League matches at Anfield, the goal was a shock.

Luton managed to hold onto the lead until half time, despite Liverpool 12 shots and six from inside the box. It was just the fourth time Liverpool had been behind at the break in the Premier League this season, but the Reds had won two and drawn one of the previous three occasions. Luton, meanwhile, had won four and lost one of their five games when leading at half-time this season.

Whose record would stand? Within 15 minutes of the second half, it became pretty clear that Liverpool would take the game. And we really shouldn’t have been surprised.

The equaliser came through Virgil van Dijk, a header from Alexis Mac Allister’s corner, who had got clear of Teden Mengi’s marking. Two minutes and five seconds later, Cody Gakpo headed in from close range after a cross from Mac Allister to put Liverpool ahead.

Liverpool have now scored nine goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half in the Premier League this season, with only Tottenham (12) and Arsenal (10) netting more. At the same time, Luton have conceded 10 goals in the opening 15 minutes of the season half, with only Aston Villa (11) conceding more.

Luis Diaz added a third after a turnover high up the pitch, his 10th goal of the season. He’s the fifth different Liverpool player to have hit double figures across all competitions this season, more than any other club. He joins Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo, with Liverpool also the first club in Europe’s top five leagues to score 100 goals across all competitions in 2023/24.

Harvey Elliott rounded off the scoring late on, piling the pressure on Liverpool’s title rivals and also Luton.

In total, Liverpool have scored 41 goals in the second half of their Premier League games this season, more than any other side and 65% of their total tally. By contrast, only Sheffield United (39) have conceded more second-half goals in the Premier League this season than Luton’s 34.

Liverpool have also won 22 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, the joint-most they have ever managed in a single campaign (also winning 22 in 2008/09).

“Nobody was satisfied with the first half. We were rushing in the final third and we didn’t find the right pass,” Virgil van Dijk said.

“Obviously it is quite normal to become nervous upfront when you are not making the right decisions.

“The reaction shown today was outstanding and something we need for the rest of the season – today was a big one.

“I try to step up from the first second I think it was key to stay calm. Luton are a good side and they play football taking some risks and when we won the ball we had to punish them. Overall it’s a great evening and time to focus on the weekend.”

It’s a result that leaves Luton in the relegation zone, knowing Everton now have the chance to go three points clear at the weekend.