Roberto Firmino’s first Anfield goal of the season finally arrived on March 11 – just before Liverpool contrived to let in three extra time goals and lose their grip on the European Cup.
Much had been made of the Brazilian’s failure to score at home all season. So much indeed that it would have been easy to assume that Firmino hadn’t scored any goals anywhere all season.
Nothing could be further from the truth of course. Liverpool’s No. 9 has scored 10 goals in all competitions – 8 of them in the Premier League. Of course, he could have scored more, yet it’s the the unusual quirk that all but one of Firmino’s goals have been scored away from home that has cast him in some sort of negative light. It makes one wonder: are home goals of more value than away goals? If not, how come a lack of away goals never attracts quite the same kind of scrutiny, or any scrutiny at all?
Take for instance Mohamed Salah. Liverpool’s top scorer has 16 Premier League goals to his name this season, yet only two of those goals were scored outside of Anfield. Of course, Salah’s total is a lot more than Firmino’s, and that may spare him the same level of criticism his Brazilian colleague faces. As does the fact that Firmino has been much more profligate in front of goal this season. But Salah’s lack of goals on the road is every bit as unusual as Firmino’s home drought, yet it barely even gets mentioned.
Frankly, neither deserves that kind of scrutiny. Goals are goals, regardless of where they are scored and both Salah and Firmino are vital cogs in Klopp’s winning machine. It’s certainly hard to argue that Firmino’s eight goals have been any less important to Liverpool’s cause. If anything, it’s easier to make a case that his goals have been even more important.
For one thing, Firmino’s tally represents almost a third of Liverpool’s total of 26 away goals this season (Sadio Mane has five). In addition, five of Firmino’s goals proved crucial game winners – at Southampton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Wolves. Of Liverpool’s 27 Premier League wins this season, 14 have been decided by a one goal margin. Firmino has provided the decisive goal in five of those games – all away from home.
Essentially, in tough, tight games away from the comforts of Anfield, Firmino has been Liverpool’s difference maker. It’s a knack that the Brazilian forward has taken beyond the Premier League too, scoring the decisive goals in both games as Liverpool saw of Monterrey and Flamengo to win the Club World Cup in December.
And it’s a trick he almost pulled off again on March 11, when he finally scored that goal at Anfield to put Liverpool ahead on aggregate in extra time.
It looked like it would make the difference again, but it all came to nought this time.
Still, Firmino had again left his mark on a tough, tight Liverpool match.
It’s what he’s done all season.