Liverpool

Deafening silence shows Alisson has been worth every penny

 • by Sam McGuire
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A lot was made of the fact Liverpool spent £66.8million on a goalkeeper with just one full season of first-team football in Europe under his belt.

At the time, Alisson’s move from Rome to Merseyside was a world-record fee. Just shy of a month later, Chelsea broke it when they signed Kepa Arrizabalaga for £71.6million. 

However, it was the Brazilian put under the microscope from the off and not the former Athletic Bilbao stopper. Every save was analysed and every pass criticised.

His casual lob over Brighton & Hove Albion forward Anthony Knockaert fanned the flames early in the season. Getting caught in possession by Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho, conceding a first Premier League goals of the season, poured petrol over the flames.

But credit to the Brazil international, he didn’t hide afterwards. He was still doing things to make yer da swear at the television, but perhaps in a more refined way. And it worked.

As the season progressed, the silence was deafening. It was like Virgil van Dijk all over again.

It quickly became apparent Liverpool had not wasted their money. They hadn’t overspent. They’d signed a world-class player in a position they needed to strengthen.

The 26-year-old finished the season with the Golden Glove having kept 21 clean sheets in 38 Premier League matches – the highest total since Manchester United‘s Edwin van der Sar (also 21) in 2008/09.

The clean sheet stat doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s more about the collective efforts of the defence as opposed to the individual performances of the goalkeeper.

But Alisson played a pivotal role in Liverpool claiming their sixth European Cup on Saturday night as they beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Madrid. With progress from the group stages hanging in the balance, Alisson darted off his line quickly to force Arkadiusz Milik to fire straight at him in a crunch game against Napoli.

It was straight at him.

But that was only the case because of his positioning. The clean sheet at Anfield against Napoli meant Liverpool progressed with Mohamed Salah scoring the winner on the night.

It was a common theme throughout the season with many of the former Roma man’s saves going under the radar because of how easy he made them look.

Very rarely did he make a stop that would find its way into a highlight reel. The one against Burnley late on would certainly make the cut, as would the stop to foil André Gomes from close-range in the Merseyside derby.

But then there are a number of saves that fall into the grey area. The sort fans think should be saved but are much better than they first appear.

Think back to the save Alisson made against Eden Hazard in September. The Belgian raced through into space and had just the keeper to beat. The Liverpool No.13 stood tall until the last minute and managed to get his legs in the way of the shot.

Should Hazard have done better? Probably. But that should take nothing away from the save itself. Liverpool went on to score at the death to salvage a point away at Stamford Bridge and to keep their unbeaten record intact.

But back to the Champions League. Alisson’s performance, again, went under the radar against Barcelona. Why wouldn’t it? The Reds scored four goals to complete a historic comeback against one of the best teams in Europe.

Gini Wijnaldum and Divock Origi claimed the plaudits with Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold all getting special mentions. On the night, Alisson made a number of smart saves to keep Barcelona at bay.

All straight at him, of course. He thwarted Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suárez, Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi on multiple occasions. In fac, it’s only when you watch the game back you realise just how many chances Barcelona had. All it takes is for one of those to go in and the game is completely different.

But Alisson, composed and assured as ever, repelled everything which came his way.

It was a similar story in the final.

It wasn’t one for the neutrals. The early goal meant Liverpool could make it awkward and they did just that. Yet Spurs came into the game in the second half as they pushed for an equaliser. It was inevitable.

While none of the eight shots Spurs had on target could be classed as gilt-edged, they worked Alisson. At one stage he made three saves in the space of a minute with Mauricio Pochettino’s men really ramping up the pressure. 

But he didn’t lose his head. He just continued to do what he’s done all season; he made the saves look easy. In the process, he became the first goalkeeper since 2010 to keep a clean sheet in a Champions League final.

Alisson finished the Champions League knock-outs with the best save percentage of the keepers who competed in the semi-finals. He kept out 84.8 per cent of the efforts he faced. Ajax’s ndré Onana was next on the list with 71.4 per cent, Tottenham No.1 Hugo Lloris not far before with 71 per cent while Barça’s Marc-André ter Stegen trailed with 70.6 per cent.

In these knock-out games alone, Alisson paid back his transfer fee.

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