NEWCASTLE, England (Reuters) - There has been so much to admire in the football produced by Premier League title chasers Liverpool and Manchester City this season with the top two providing the connoisseurs of technique, tactics, and finesse with a true feast.
But the final stages of the campaign have also delivered for those who appreciate the games more earthy qualities — the traditional winning character traits of guts and effort.
Manchester City had to show all their mettle and steel to earn a 1-0 win at Burnley last week and on Saturday Liverpool showed they have the spirit to face down adversity and find a way to win.
Substitute Divock Origi’s 86th minute header — after Liverpool had twice seen their lead rubbed out by a determined Newcastle United — ensured the three points that put the pressure right back on Manchester City.
Juergen Klopp’s side have 94 points and City, who face Leicester City on Monday, are two points behind. Never before have two teams passed 90 points in a Premier League season.
On the final Sunday — May 12 — Liverpool are at home to
Wolverhampton Wanderers and City take on Brighton on the south coast.
“Today was a battle of will but it was a victory of passion, heart and absolute desire - absolutely brilliant,” said Klopp.
“We could talk about football tonight, we could talk purely about showing real heart, showing real passion and showing real desire.”
It was all the more impressive given that on Wednesday Liverpool had expending so much energy at the Nou Camp only to end up with a bitter 3-0 defeat.
There was no sign of any hangover from that experience however.
“It was just brilliant,” said Klopp.
“Newcastle showed it as well, unbelievable - they gave us a proper game. I think in our situation with all the circumstances around, some people probably expected us to show a bit of nerves and the boys didn’t. It was just a difficult game for difficult reasons,” said Klopp.
Having been pushed all the way by former manager Rafa Benitez’s side, Liverpool must now hope that another of their ex-bosses, Brendan Rodgers, can inspire his Leicester side to an upset against City at the Etihad on Monday.
But Klopp says he is a resigned to whatever fate will throw his team’s way.
“I accepted long ago that we do everything, absolutely everything, the boys throw whatever they have on the pitch, so that means whether we are champion or not, it is destiny,” he said.
“We do everything and we cannot do more - can you get more than 94 points? Can you get more in all the other stuff? Not really.
“Wow, what a race”
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar