At last, a latter-day Premier League match reminiscent of the way so many of us still believe the game should be played.
Liverpool v Manchester City was described by Gary Neville as ‘a throwback’ in its intensity, pace and most notably physical challenge.
It certainly looked as if had been plucked from the sepia annals of the good old days when men were men and divers were ridiculed by even their own team-mates as they rolled around in simulated agony.
No quarter asked. None given. Just as admirably, no diminishing of skill and intelligence.
Here was a cosmopolitan take on some of the blood and thunder clashes which characterised matches between the yeomen of Manchester United, Liverpool, Leeds, Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton and at times Chelsea and Cloughie’s Nottingham Forest in days of yore. With Celtic thrown into the mix in good British measure on some frenzied European Cup nights.
One vivid memory came flooding back while watching Jurgen’s and Pep’s troops – well, nearly all of them – give everything at Anfield.
It was of one dank, darkening winter’s evening at the old White Hart Lane when Spurs braveheart Dave Mackay broke his leg in a shuddering tackle.
The sharp crack of the impact indicated there must be a fracture. Agony though it must have been, Dave ignored the trainer’s entreaties to go off. Kept refusing and stamping his leg until the white of the broken bone pierced through his stocking.
If that doesn’t put into woeful perspective Sunday’s surrender to VAR’s interpretation of a slight shirt pull as sufficient to chalk off City’s goal, perhaps nothing will.
That reversal of decision under pressure from this misguided and so often misread blob of technology was just about the only thing referee Anthony Taylor got wrong all afternoon.
It must irk him all the more that he was coerced into that Trussian U-turn after keeping this jewel of a match flowing all afternoon by refusing to whistle for trivial fouls. Many of them identical to that by which Erling Haaland brushed Fabinho aside. And by the way, Liverpool keeper Alisson did not have the ball under his control as Haaland went on to nudge it away from his hands for Phil Foden to net.
Before the Kop, which played its own deafening part in a huge victory, erupts in fury let us be quite clear that Liverpool deserved to win through Mo Salah’s gem of a goal. It is a considerable feat for any team to put a stifling end to City’s undefeated records on this season’s scintillating form.
Whether the euphoria of this triumph over the City maestros who snaffled last season’s Premier title from them is sufficient to provide the after-burner for a resurrected championship challenge by Liverpool this season remains to be seen.
But whatever the outcome next spring, these two teams have given the disenchanted among the public at large a spectacular reason to fall back in love with football.
At the very least, this match was a glorious throwback. At best, might it even signal a wholescale renaissance of the heroic game which used to hold the entire nation in thrall?