They held a parade in Liverpool last June that drew a red flood of 750,000 into the streets, and as delighted as everyone there was to be celebrating an LFC victory in the UEFA Champions League, the most prestigious club competition in world soccer, it is widely known a vast portion of the club’s fan base coveted a Premier League title even more.
It had been 29 years since Liverpool won the league, and it would be 30 even by the time the next season was completed. Fans ached for that drought to end, and when Liverpool arrived at Notre Dame on a steaming summer day last July as part of its early training for the 2019-20 season, the players who spoke about the season, along with manager Jurgen Klopp, evinced an understanding that there was a very important job still undone.
Rarely has any team in any sport embarked on such a mission with such ruthless efficiency, and perhaps never has there been a Premier League team perform at this level. Liverpool secured its first-ever Premier League title Thursday, and its first in England’s top division since the Reds claimed their 18th championship in 1990. They clinched with seven games still on the schedule, what would be two months’ worth of competition in an ordinary year. This has been, on a variety of levels, anything but.
“I have no words. It’s unbelievable,” Klopp told Sky Sports after Chelsea’s 2-1 victory against Manchester City established Liverpool FC as the 2019-20 Premier League champions. “It’s much more than I ever thought would be possible.
“It’s an incredible achievement of my players. What they did over the last 2-3 years is just exceptional. A pure joy for me to coach them.”
LFC did not lose a game from the start of the season Aug. 9 until the last day of February. Their record as Feb. 29 dawned was 26-0-1. They built such an exorbitant lead it was not at all presumptuous to begin calculating which game in March — with the season scheduled to end in May! — could be the clincher. Then, however, came the necessary decision to shut down competition in the Premier League because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once it was clear the season would resume, LFC fans have had plenty of time to revel in the inevitable.
It was altogether appropriate that Liverpool, after being forced to wait an extra three months to claim a Premier League title for which its fans had been waiting 30 years, would win the championship by … waiting.
As the Reds rested from Wednesday’s rousing 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace, their “magic number” to clinch the title had been reduced to two points. They were so far ahead of second-place Manchester City the result would change only if they lost all seven of their remaining games and City won all eight left on their schedule.
The first of those Manchester City games arrived Thursday afternoon. If City either drew with Chelsea or lost, the title would belong to Liverpool. And who would score the goal that would electrify the many Liverpool fans in the United States — @LFCUSA on Twitter has 212,000 followers — but Pennsylvania native and U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic.
Pulisic might have been Chelsea’s best player, and certainly was its most dangerous, against City. He broke into the clear in the 36th minute and, one-on-one with City’s extraordinary goalkeeper Ederson, slid a shot beyond his reach which eked inside the right post. He had another likely goal cleared off the line in the second half on a brilliant, desperate piece of defense by City’s Kyle Walker. Pulisic was involved, again, in the furious scramble in front of goal in the 78th minute, his attempt at knocking the ball over the line deflecting to teammate Tammy Abraham, who was able to guide the ball forward. There, City defender Fernandinho saw no option but to try to sneak a hand in to stop the ball from floating into the goal. He was caught by video review, which meant a red card for him and a penalty for Chelsea, which Willian slammed into the left side of the goal.
“It was really tense,” Klopp said. “I didn’t want to be involved, really, but obviously when you’re watching and you are involved and then you hope — so it was quite intense.”
Klopp said it was not a relief to win the title, with the exception of his concern during the hiatus regarding whether the season would be completed or, if not, LFC would be acknowledged as champion.
He has only been there since 2015, though. Those 30 years weren’t on him. He acknowledged what it meant to club legends such as Kenny Dalglish, who won titles as a player and manager and was in the stands for the Crystal Palace game, wearing a mask and socially distanced because there were no other fans, as well as Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and so many others. And, of course, to Liverpool’s fans.
“We do it together in this moment,” Klopp said. “It’s a joy to do it for you.”
He urged Liverpool fans to celebrate in their homes, or in their yards. They didn't all listen. There will be a parade one day that will celebrate both this championship and the ability to stage a public event of such magnitude. The party until then might not be big, and only some of it figures to be outdoors. With Liverpool winning title title with seven games to spare, though, it has a long, long time to rage.