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Liverpool myth exposed under Jurgen Klopp as Manchester United truth emerges


When Michael Oliver pointed to the spot for the second time on Saturday evening, the collective tut could be heard around the country and beyond.

“Penaltypool!” came the shout on social media as Liverpool, with mere moments remaining, were given another chance to score from 12 yards against Leeds United.

Mohamed Salah held his nerve once again and the Reds were up and running in their defence of the Premier League title with a 4-3 triumph.


For rival supporters frustrated at seeing Liverpool making a winning start, that two goals were from penalties was further justification Jurgen Klopp’s side haven’t been the best in European, the world and in England in recent years.

 

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‘They’ve simply been the luckiest’.

Of course, as is often the case in such matters, the truth is somewhat different. And for Liverpool, markedly so.

For a start, nobody could truly argue with the award of either penalty. Certainly, Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa had no complaints after the match.

And with VAR poring over every major decision, there is a safety net now for clear blunders regarding spot kicks.

That said, it remains subjective. Indeed, quite how Joel Matip wasn’t awarded a penalty for being dragged back mid-air against Newcastle United remains a mystery some 12 months on.

Detractors couldn’t point to the influence of the Anfield crowd at the weekend. But even with fans in place, home advantage has seemingly counted for little in recent times.

Liverpool have now gone 60 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League. During that time they have been awarded just 10 penalties of which four came in two matches, with the visit of Arsenal in December 2018 the other occasion before Saturday.

Manchester United have been awarded 18 home top-flight penalties in the same period. For context, Liverpool have scored 152 times in those games, United 121.

The choice of United for comparison is deliberate. From the start of the 2017/18 campaign – when Liverpool’s celebrated front three were first brought together – the Old Trafford outfit have been given more spot kicks in the Premier League than anything other team with a total of 29, of which 26 have come in the last two years.

Second are Crystal Palace on 24, despite winning only three spot kicks last season.

Manchester City are next with 23, even though in 2018/19 – when they scored 95 goals – they were awarded only four penalties. Leicester City moved on to 22 thanks to two that were slotted by Jamie Vardy at the weekend.

Liverpool’s total of 17 is one more than Chelsea while, of their main rivals, Arsenal and Everton have had 14 and Tottenham Hotspur, strangely, only 11.

What’s more, Liverpool make their penalties count. Salah’s decider meant the Reds have now scored from their last 17 penalties in all competitions – 15 if restricted to the Premier League – a sequence second only to the run of 21 successful spot kicks in the mid-1980s.

That several, such as at home to Leicester and Tottenham last season, have proven winners in high-profile fixtures has only strengthened the myth surrounding the Reds.

Attack-minded teams will always have a greater chance of winning spot kicks, given they spend far more time in the opposition box than more defensive rivals.

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And with Liverpool, like the United teams of the 1990s, renowned for scrapping until the very last whistle, that they score so many late goals – regardless of whether a penalty or not – stands to reason as opponents suffer from mental and physical fatigue under the weight of sheer pressure.

Liverpool aren’t lucky. In fact, if anything, the numbers suggest they may not be getting their rightful share of spot kicks.

What they certainly are, though, is very good at making the most of those opportunities.


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