Liverpool closed to within two points of the Premier League top four with a comfortable 3-0 win against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Two goals from Portugal star Diogo Jota and a smart finish from Mohamed Salah in between, gave boss Jurgen Klopp the perfect Easter egg.
LFC fans may have been worried at half-time, as once again, their side drew a blank, unable to find the back of the net.
In the early stages Bobby Firmino curled the ball wide with the goal gaping.
The biggest chance of the half fell to midfielder James Milner, who blasted wide after good work from Trent Alexander-Arnold down the right-hand side, as the scouse hero drew out the Arsenal defence.
With his head in his hands, the 35-year-old veteran knew he should have at least hit the target.
Klopp’s team selection raised eyebrows with Milner and Firmino starting ahead of Jota and Dutchman Gini Wijnaldum, but what unfolded completely justified the German’s decision.
In the 61st minute, off came Andrew Robertson and on came Jota as Klopp switched to a 4-2-4 formation, and it worked.
Three minutes after coming on, Jota who has loved scoring headers for Portugal of late, put Liverpool ahead with a thumping header after a beautiful delivery from Alexander-Arnold.
TAA let out a roar of relief and happiness after being omitted from England manager Gareth Southgate’s squad for the World Cup Qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland.
And wow did he answer his critics well.
Liverpool didn’t have to wait long for a second as the outstanding Fabinho chipped a delightful through ball to Salah, who finished with aplomb nutmegging a hapless Bernd Leno.
Klopp’s men wrapped up the win as Alexander-Arnold again had a hand in the goal as he intercepted a poor Gabriel pass, leaving Salah and Sadio Mane to tee up Jota who slammed home his second of the night.
There was nearly time for Liverpool to add a fourth as Alisson’s long ball found Salah, and the Egyptian selflessly squared to Mane, who was unable to find the net.
The win energises Liverpool ahead of a vital run in that could yet end in silverware and a top four finish.
Six talking points
The impact that Fabinho has had since moving to midfield has been game changing for this Liverpool side.
This is an aspect that I had raised for Friends of Liverpool back in January and it took nearly two months for Klopp to listen to fans’ pleas to do so.
Fabinho provides that shield at front of the back four, breaking the play down in midfield and setting up the attack. The former Monaco player is easily one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
After the game, Klopp was asked about the Milner and Firmino decision, explaining he wanted that freshness as neither were on international duty, unlike Jota for Portugal and Gini for Holland.
The move paid dividends, as Jota put himself on a hat-trick and showed a freshness of his own off the bench.
Alexander-Arnold silences his critics
Klopp and the Liverpool faithful, even the majority of the football community have rallied around the 22-year-old after his shock omission from the national team.
Trent has easily been one of Southgate’s most reliable and standout performers of the last few years. The former Middlesbrough manager’s decision made little sense.
His unbelievable cross for Jota’s goal broke the deadlock, and with it, set the platform for a fine Liverpool victory.
If Liverpool cannot do without their scouse hero, how can England?
In a European Championships, his quality is something any country would love to call upon.
While for the youngster, the Euros is a unique occasion that only comes around once every four years. And for all his contributions for the national team, he is deserving of such an honour.
Ozan Kabak and Nat Philipps complete another shut-out
Klopp and his players will of course be delighted with yet another clean sheet, but this was largely down to the communication of Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips, which has grown stronger each game.
The pair have helped Liverpool to three consecutive clean sheets now, following the 2-0 second-leg Champions League victory over Leipzig in Budapest and the 1-0 win against Wolves at Molineux.
Serious questions need to be asked in the corridors of Anfield of how to reward Kabak and Phillips, who were initially seen as nothing more than a stop gap until injured pair Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez returned.
Yet they have both been parachuted into the team under difficult circumstances and performed admirably.
Kabak has bought into the ethos of the club since joining on transfer deadline back in January from German side Schalke. His loan spell is up at the end of May and Klopp must decide whether to activate the £18 million option to buy.
On this evidence, his Anfield career should certainly be prolonged.
The same also applies to Phillips, who himself keeps a very low profile off the field, deciding to stay off social media. He has knuckled down and got on with the job and deserves to stay at Anfield next season.
A new contract should definitely be in the offing, and if Liverpool experience déjà vu next season with another injury crisis, at least they will have adequate reserves to call upon.
New contracts for Fab and Salah
Fabinho in the centre of the park again showed he is virtually unplayable on his day. Liverpool chiefs must be itching to offer him a new contract.
Not only has he played most of the season operating out of position in defence, excelling there, he has been pivotal to everything good Liverpool have done going forward as well.
He is a crucial cog to Klopp’s long-term strategy for the club.
Salah’s goal against Arsenal made him score his 93rd goal in 150 appearances for the club, the fifth quickest player to reach this landmark.
The ‘Egyptian King’ is adored by the Anfield fans and so his recent comments to Marca about possibly playing for a Spanish team one day, will worry the club that he wants a new challenge.
Salah is arguably Liverpool’s best out and out striker, and so renewing his contract which is up in 2023, should certainly be near the top of Klopp’s summer agenda.
Jota – signing of the summer
When the Portugal striker arrived from Wolves for £45 million in September, no one would have expected that he would be Liverpool’s most in-form striker.
Most thought he would be an impact substitute or a squad player to supplement Klopp’s vaulted front three of Firmino, Salah and Mane.
Yet Jota has proven himself to be indispensable, and arguably had he still been injured, Liverpool probably wouldn’t have won against Wolves or Arsenal, that’s how invaluable he has become.
His three months out injured makes one wonder what might have been. Liverpool sat top of the Premiership before Jota got injured, but when he returned to the side, they had plummeted to eighth.
Jota has now scored 21 goals in 18 starts for club and country this season.
The three goals in just two games for Portugal during their recent World Cup qualifiers were both headers, showing Liverpool just where his strengths lie if players like Trent and Robbo can capitalise on it.
Jota should surely start Tuesday’s crunch Champions League quarter-final first leg encounter against Real Madrid.
Klopp will be hoping his star man stays fit between now and the end of the season.
However, the other noteworthy point would be that upgrading Jota for Rhian Brewster, whose £25 million move to Sheffield United helped fund this deal, was an absolute masterstroke by Liverpool.
If Jota keeps playing the way he does, £45 million would be a snip and some bargain.
But it also raises questions that the champions need to offload deadwood such as Adrián, Naby Keïta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi.
Most of whom are often injured and have played very little in recent seasons.
Signing upgrades, a la Jota style will help freshen up this team and prepare Liverpool to attack on all fronts next season.
Out of all those names, Origi is the one who has been the most disappointing. The Belgian has drifted out of form and is a shadow of the player that helped Liverpool win a sixth Champions League crown, nearly two years ago.
Having a fifth striker in their ranks to keep Mane, Firmino, Salah and Jota on their toes should be another huge priority for Klopp this summer.
Although a hero in the Merseyside derby, it’s with a heavy heart that Origi should be moved on this summer, for the benefit of his own career, and hopefully the club can then sign one of Europe’s in form attackers.
I will explore this story more for Friends of Liverpool in a few weeks’ time.
Also, how good is Alisson’s Ian Rush/Graeme Souness style tache?
It feels like Liverpool’s vintage performance on Saturday night also had an air of confidence attached to it thanks to Ali’s new look.
The win at the Emirates moved Liverpool up to fifth, two points off Chelsea in fourth, who were stunned at Stamford Bridge by West Brom, losing 5-2 to Sam Allardyce’s side.
This ended Thomas Tuchel’s 14-match unbeaten reign. Meanwhile, Leicester City in third lost 2-0 to Manchester City, so Klopp and his players will be delighted that they capitalised fully on their rivals’ slip ups.
And this afternoon, Joe Willock’s 85th minute equaliser for Newcastle saw them draw 2-2 with Tottenham, thwarting José Mourinho’s side from collecting all three points.
Although Spurs move into fifth, bumping Liverpool down to sixth, only a goal difference of four separates the two sides.
Considering Liverpool’s top four hopes had all been written off a few weeks ago, they are suddenly back in the mix.
And the late Ian St John will be proud of how they’ve fought their way back into contention and suddenly there’s everything to play for.