Trent Alexander-Arnold’s last-minute winner against Aston Villa was a prime example of the full-back’s bold attitude and technical quality, explained James Milner.
With Liverpool locked at 1-1 against Saturday’s visitors to Anfield as their Premier League meeting entered stoppage time, Alexander-Arnold snatched all three points for his team in stunning fashion.
The ball spun out to the No.66 at the left corner of the area and he took one touch to set up a precise, swerving shot through the bodies inside the box and into the bottom right corner.
“It was some finish as well!” Milner told Liverpoolfc.com of the effort that earned the Reds a third consecutive win in the top flight.
“Delighted for him obviously. [He] had a disappointment with the England squad and things like that, but shown how he has bounced back. It was one of those games where we just had to find a way to win, so delighted for him.
“He easily could have been out on the wing and not wanting to get involved. He picked up that little pocket, inside-right in the midfield. It came to him after that and what a finish. He has shown his quality again as always, a great attitude.
“All the boys really. We needed a reaction at half-time and [to] find a way second half. It’s not the greatest Liverpool performance ever at Anfield but it was an important one.
“In a way, I think that will do us more good than if we came out and played really well – that fight, determination, find a way, battling and dig in for each other. I’m delighted with that win.”
Liverpool had to take the hard route to clinch the spoils against Dean Smith’s side.
Ollie Watkins fired the visitors in front against the run of play shortly before half-time and the Reds’ disappointment was compounded when a subsequent Roberto Firmino conversion was ruled out after a VAR review.
But Mohamed Salah’s rebound header brought Jürgen Klopp’s men back on level terms and they continued to press for a winner that finally arrived via Alexander-Arnold’s right boot.
“It was an important win, but how we won was important,” said Milner. “We haven’t been at our best this season, we know that.
“We’ve shown our best over the last month, six weeks or so, but the consistency hasn’t been there. It hasn’t been every game. That’s football, it’s not an easy game.
“I think it’s easy to get caught up in the last few years how good we’ve been and making it look easy – it’s not. Once you’re on that roll it’s easy but when things aren’t going for you the decisions go against you, you get injuries and you just have to stick it out.
“Some of the boys who have come in, [like] the two centre-halves – it’s not easy not playing and then going and playing every minute of every game, and the weight on their shoulders. There has been some fantastic performances.”
After Diogo Jota bagged two goals from the bench against Arsenal last weekend, Liverpool again benefited from the impact of substitutes on Saturday.
Thiago Alcantara and Xherdan Shaqiri, both sent on in the second half, combined in the passage of play that led to the winning goal as the former’s close-range drive was cleared out to Alexander-Arnold.
“That’s what you need, that’s why you need a good squad,” said Milner, who went on to detail the important role every member of the team can perform.
“You need a good squad to push each other for those shirts and the positions, make people play well because if they don’t they’re out of the team.
“The day before training if you’re out of the team you have to prepare the boys and have the right mindset.
“Especially at this moment in time, you need to be vocal off the field and encourage the boys on the pitch because we have to create our own atmosphere. Obviously we’re missing the fans.
“So everybody has a massive role.
“The biggest role obviously is coming on and having an impact, which the boys did. That’s so important. We’ve said so many times, you don’t achieve anything without having a full, together squad – this year obviously more than ever, with the injuries and players we’ve had missing.”
The defeat of Villa ensured the Reds’ pursuit of a top-four finish in the Premier League continued at pace.
Milner is not paying attention to the standings, however, with the vice-captain preferring to focus purely on what he and his teammates can influence.
“It obviously puts us in a good position – but, for me, I don’t really want to look at that league table at this moment in time,” said the No.7.
“It’s more important for us to concentrate on ourselves and get ourselves to the level we have been at and get that consistency back. I think if we concentrate on that and concentrate on ourselves game by game, then the rest will take care of itself and we can hopefully put a bit of pressure on other people.
“If we worry about ourselves, get that level of consistency we’ve had before and keep grinding out results like today then hopefully we can achieve what we can at the end of the season.”