Highs and lows: Liverpool wraps up an eventful December

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: Luke Thomas of Leicester City walks back to his team after having a penalty saved during the penalty shoot out during the Carabao Cup Quarter Final match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield on December 22, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: Luke Thomas of Leicester City walks back to his team after having a penalty saved during the penalty shoot out during the Carabao Cup Quarter Final match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield on December 22, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

As 2021 winds down and we head into the new year, let’s look back at an eventful December for the Reds.

December is always a busy period for any Premier League club and Liverpool is no exception. The Reds played eight matches over a 28-day stretch.

The December to remember — three different competitions, a Merseyside Derby, a sending off, a postponed match, two Champions League draws, an intense penalty shootout and one very disappointing performance.

Liverpool’s December opened with the 239th Merseyside Derby. Liverpool broke Everton spirits and sent some Toffee fans home early with a clinical 4-1 victory. Jordan Henderson fired a rocket past Pickford to start the scoring and Mohamed Salah’s brace sealed Everton’s fate. The atmosphere in Goodison Park was tense and the match felt like a proper competitive derby despite Liverpool’s superior performance.

Next up came an away trip to Wolverhampton. A defensive battle that had a number of exciting moments. Diego Jota managed to dribble past a misplaced Wolves keeper and looked to be away free on goal before riffling his shot at Conor Coady who was standing on the goal line. Still not sure how Jota didn’t manage to score. This match needed a special moment and player to break the deadlock — enter Divock Origi. The Liverpool legend subbed on in the 68th minute but waited to the death to pull Liverpool ahead. In the 94th minute, Virgil van Dijk pinged a ball across the pitch to Salah who got behind ex-Liverpool man Ki-Jana Hoever and slotted the ball across the box to Origi. The ever so clutch Belgium striker rolled the ball into the back of the net and the Reds left the Molineux with all three points. Football truly is nothing without Origi.

The group stage of the Champions League was wrapped up with a trip to the famous San Siro. A rotated Liverpool side took a 2-1 victory against AC Milan and finished the group stage with a perfect 18 points — the first English club to do so. 19-year-old Tyler Morton started and performed well. 18-year-olds Max Woltman and Conor Bradley subbed on to make their Champions League debut. The future for these kids is bright and we hope to see more of them in the right moments. The highlight of the match was when Nat Phillips coolly lost two Milan players with a Cruyff turn inside Liverpool’s box. Naldini continues to grow his Liverpool folklore.

Next up Anfield welcomed home a club legend, Steven Gerrard. The Aston Villa manager was greeted by a warm reception from the Liverpool supporters, who even sang out his name upon the final whistle. Gerrard set his team up conservatively and they did well to limit the space Liverpool had to play in, but the Reds weren’t too bothered and pressured the Villa keeper all match. Villa defender Tyrone Mings dragged down Salah in the box halfway through the second half and the Egyptian finished off the penalty kick to take the 1-0 home win. Mutual respect and admiration on both sides in this match.

Newcastle were the next victims to enter Anfield. The match was dominated by Liverpool virtually from start to finish but ex-Liverpool player Jonjo Shelvey managed to curl a ball from outside the area into the bottom corner of Alison’s net to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. Liverpool ended the night with all three points thanks to goals from Jota, Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Trent hit an absolute rocket from well outside the box that found its way into the near top corner. It was a wonderful strike that the homegrown lad said he had been “waiting for five years, waiting to hit it clean like that.”

The Reds then headed to the capital to face a Spurs side that hadn’t played any football in two weeks. The match was tightly contested and had plenty of action. Liverpool fell behind early as Harry Kane opened the scoring with his second league goal of the season. Shortly after, Kane went flying into a reckless tackle on Andy Robertson that should’ve seen him sent off. The England captain was more than lucky to not receive a red for his challenge and Robertson was lucky to not have sustained a long-term injury. This was just the beginning of Robertson’s eventful day. He went on to set up Jota for Liverpool’s first goal and then stuck his head amongst the boots to nod home Liverpool’s second. Robertson has a nice black eye to show for his efforts. The Scotsman’s frustration boiled over when he took a wild hack at Spurs’ Emerson which saw him sent off and suspended for three matches. The match ended 2-2 with Son Heung-Min scoring the equalizer.

The most entertaining match came from the Carabao Cup quarterfinal against Leicester City. A heavily rotated Liverpool lineup featured against a full-strength Foxes side. In a thrilling match, the Reds came back twice from a two-goal difference. Takumi Minamino was the hero in regulation time as he slotted home a 95th-minute equalizer to send the match to penalties. The hero in the shootout was keeper Caoimhin Kelleher who saved two penalties and pushed Liverpool into the semifinals. Liverpool will face Arsenal in the semifinal with the first leg being played on January 6th.

The Boxing Day bout with Leeds United was postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the Leeds squad. The makeup date has not been announced yet.

The Red’s final match of 2021 and this hectic December month was a trip to the King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City for the second time in six days. There’s not much positive to say about this one outside of the fact that van Dijk and Fabinho returned to the lineup. Overall, it was a poor performance from the Reds. Salah missed his second ever penalty in the Premier League and Liverpool failed to cash in on any scoring opportunities. Sadio Mane had a great chance to score early in the second half when he made a direct run and found himself one-on-one with Schmeichel, but he blasted the ball over the net. Mane’s goal drought continues. A disappointing performance in which Liverpool failed to score a goal for the first time since April 14.

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It was quite an eventful month for Liverpool and one that I think every supporter enjoyed. We had last-minute drama in multiple matches, a Merseyside Derby win, a perfect Champions League group run and a penalty shootout to send us into a semifinal. Liverpool finishes the month with six wins, one draw, and one disappointing loss. December is always an entertaining month for supporters given the congested fixture list and this year was no different. Now onto 2022, where Liverpool has its work cut out for them in the Premier League, but we won’t go down without a fight.