Okay, I need to talk about this game.
After 4 straight wins, we somehow conspired to get dumped out of the FA Cup by Watford, a team we had just thumped 4-1 in the league, in one of those ‘only in FM’ scheduling coincidences that sees you face the same side in consecutive matches.
Against this context, we headed to Ukraine to face Shaktar, a capable but beatable opponent. After a dire first half we found ourselves trailing, a second half away goal giving us just a glimmer of hope in a 1-3 defeat.
The Carabao Cup final followed, a lethargic start giving way to a fine 3-0 win, the first of another 4 straight wins. And then came the return leg with Shaktar. And blimey, what a match.
We raced into a 3-0 half time lead with goals from Henderson, who both started and completed the counter, Firmino and Mane. We had done it, we were through! But straight after half time they struck and then to our horror, we conceded a penalty, converted by how-is-he-still-playing Darijo Srna. Disaster. 4-5, we were going out! But the fun was only just beginning. Nabil Fekir struck his first of the night on 54 minutes to make it 5-5, leaving Shaktar with the advantage of away goals. He then struck his second on 61 minutes, neatly converting a penalty to make it 6-5, then completing his hattrick on 72 minutes, coming after Firmino’s second on 68 minutes. From glory to disaster and back to glory, we were through with a whopping 7-2 victory on the night and an incredible 8-5 victory on aggregate.
Mind The Gap
Elsewhere we remain top of the league, still 2 points clear of City. Since we turned them over in the first semi of the Carabao, they drew with Arsenal and have then set off on an incredible 12 game winning streak. Thing is though, we are matching them. Discarding cup games, we are unbeaten since City bested us in November, dropping points in just 3 draws since the turn of the year, with 6 PL wins on the spin. With bottom placed Burnley next, the big match comes after that when City come to Anfield in a match that really could decide the title.
Whatever happens I must be pretty pleased with how things have gone. At the same time, I’m gunning for glory.