Moments after the final whistle had blown after this pulsating, intoxicating encounter, Hatters fans around the ground needed a minute to take in what they had just witnessed. Their silence would not last long, however, as their heroes in orange and navy walked around the pitch to take in their deserved adulation.
The Town players, like their supporters, were still coming to terms with the disappointment of only – yes only – holding Liverpool to a draw having conceding a goal in the fifth minute of eight added minutes at the end of the second half.
But what a draw and what a match. We’ve said all along the power of night under the lights at Kenilworth Road can be special. Liverpool teams of old have suffered and struggled here. And they did again as a Town team battled, fought and timed their moments in offensive with power and purpose.
Roared on by a record home attendance since 1994, the Hatters were never overawed by their in-form visitors. Jurgen Klopp’s side had lost once in 21 games in all competitions – that against Tottenham in a game best remembered infamously for a goal and subsequent VAR farce.
Like all games this season, however, the Town were always in it and that was in part down to a man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski.
The Town’s number one’s productive afternoon began in the fourth minute when he clawed away a Darwin Nunez drive from the edge of the box. Nunez came close on 13 minutes when lifting a first-time shot on the crossbar as Liverpool searched for an early breakthrough.
Yet the Hatters were well in this and Chiedozie Ogbene’s pace and downright directness paved a way for Issa Kabore to shoot over. Up went the noise from every nook and cranny in the Kenny and it was at that point we knew we were in for a game.
It was breathless stuff as both sides attacked at pace on the counter. If it wasn’t Ogbene at one end it was the threat of Mohamed Salah at the other. The Egyptian firing over when well-placed on 21 minutes.
Kaminski did brilliantly to keep the score blank with a strong hand to deny Diogo Jota’s firm strike but Town tails were certainly up at the break when Ross Barkley, an ex-Everton man, rifled a shot over at the end of a wonderful flowing move.
The Town’s fine first half needed to be backed up by a strong start to the second. The Hatters have been guilty of slow starts to second periods so far this term.
Not so this time. Kabore’s pace and agility carried him forward into the space down the Liverpool left to win a succession of corners which went down well with the home faithful.
Time soon ticked towards 65. Ogbene had the beating of Trent Alexander-Arnold all afternoon and another left-wing raid almost paid dividends when the Town man bulldozered his way to goal, his square pass to Carlton Morris eventually ushered behind by a relieved Liverpool defence.
Klopp made a triple change a minute later in an attempt to wrestle back momentum. With 20 minutes left it should be been 1-0. Nunez somehow, unbelievably, blazing over with the goal gaping following Salah’s knockdown.
Kaminski’s reflexes prevented Nunez – again – two minutes later, before the Hatters then had to wait for a VAR check to deny the Reds a penalty.
Yet as the game entered the final 15 minutes the Town were still very much in it. When the Hatters had a corner, Liverpool would break. And vice-versa.
The visitors were getting twitchy. Klopp went in the book for something he’d said to the officials. Ogbene and Morris made way, as Tahith Chong and Elijah Adebayo joined the fray.
And then it happened.
With ten minutes left pandemonium. Utter jubilation. Kenilworth Road was shaking. So was I, so were you, so were Liverpool.
Barkley’s care of the ball in the middle of the park was a class above and his quick thinking sent Kabore galloping away down the right. His cross from the right was on the money and Chong, a former Manchester United man, tucked home past Alisson to make it 1-0.
A long VAR check took the sting out the celebrations somewhat. But in the end, whatever: the Town were in front once the goal was allowed to stand.
Up went the noise.
Then came the nerves.
The goal gave the Town ten minutes and added time to see it out. You knew the pressure would intensify from the visitors.
It looked like it was going to happen. Then eight minutes went up on the board.
It was five minutes into those that agonisingly, Liverpool found a way. Salah was the architect, his ball from the right finding Luis Diaz, the substitute, flying highest above Kabore to loop ahead past Kaminski. Silence all around. Relief for the Reds.
You still felt there was still a chance left in the remaining minutes – for either side – and so it proved at the death when Kabore found space in the box to warm the palms of Alisson.
And after all that – 100 minutes of epic exhilaration – it was over.
A point when three were so close. It didn’t feel like a loss – well maybe for a second or two – but the Town’s grit and, at times quality, was deserving of an important point which helped the Hatters lift themselves out of the bottom three.
A wonderful game and proof again the Hatters are not to be taken lightly in this league – one we’re competing in on merit.
So. Next up. Old Trafford.
See you then.
Town: Kaminski; Kaboré, Doughty, Lockyer, Osho, Mengi; Nakamba, Barkley, Ogbene (sub Brown 79), Townsend (sub Chong 61), Morris (sub Adebayo 75).
Subs not used: Krul, Mpanzu, Clark, Giles, Nelson, Luker.
Attendance: 11,049, including 1,151 from Liverpool