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Fake finale in Liverpool's moment of triumph proves unkindest cut of strangest campaign

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For a magnificent half hour on Thursday night the football in the game between Chelsea and Manchester City was good enough to make you forget the surrounding circumstances.

As Kevin De Bruyne bent home an extraordinary free-kick, Raheem Sterling hit the post with an equally outrageous shot, Kyle Walker made a miraculous goal-line clearance from Christian Pulisic and both teams went at it hammer and tongs, it scarcely seemed to matter that no-one was in the stadium to see them.

Fernandinho's sending-off and the subsequent Willian penalty finally took the heat out of things but this game was proof that there is Premier League life after Covid. The football just needs to be of the very highest standard.

The game was also aided by the tension in the air as City strove for the win which would prevent Liverpool winning the Premier League. It might appear odd that the result seemed to matter quite so much. Had City won the Reds would still have needed just one win from their last seven games to clinch the title.

Yet talk of Liverpool fans being on tenterhooks was more than just the usual broadcasting hype. I think the club's supporters were conscious of how important it was for Jurgen Klopp's team to become champions as quickly as possible and remove themselves from the theatre of unreality which is the restarted Premier League.

Those fans will not care about the strange manner in which Liverpool have been crowned. That is their right after 30 fallow years in the league. Yet the rest of us can't escape the feeling that something is not quite right.

Liverpool's breakthrough promised to be one of the great emotional experiences in sport. We pictured a pulsating Anfield or players celebrating in front of a delirious bunch of travelling supporters. We imagined the open-top bus inching slowly through the packed streets of the city.

Instead there is something grossly attenuated about the moment of victory. I could come up with some spoofery about how fitting it is that a club which has suffered so much should triumph in a year when their country had suffered so much. I could suggest that in some way this almost made the victory more memorable.

But why lie? You know and I know this doesn't feel the same. And Jurgen Klopp knows too, hence his comments after the 4-0 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday night. "The supporters can push us to incredible things and without them it is nothing," said the German (pictured). "I never missed them more than I did tonight because imagine this game in front of 50,000 people, the emotions that would have been in the stadium. It would have been incredible."

That's the problem. Good and all as Liverpool were against Palace, the match seemed haunted by the presence of a shadow game where the Reds would have moved to the brink of ultimate victory in front of their fans.

Liverpool, who in the first half of the season played some of the best football in Premier League history, deserved a much better finale. Television's attempts to improvise some simulacrum of the normal experience only made matters worse.

There was something inordinately depressing about the sight of all those fans on Zoom, wearing their team colours to watch television. They looked like hostages pretending to be in good form to reassure their families. The fake crowd noise innovation is even worse. In a world already befuddled by various forms of Fake News, the last thing we need is the addition of another layer of falsehood.

On Thursday night, it felt as though the new champions had not just won but also been robbed of something valuable. Football has always been a community rather than a solitary experience, for Liverpool perhaps more than any other club. That fans in this most sociable of cities couldn't even band together in a pub to toast the end of the famine seemed the unkindest cut of all.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

For more news relating to Chelsea, visit our sister site Chelsea Live.
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