Liverpool shocked the footballing world last night by beating Barcelona by four goals to nil to pull off what many saw as a virtually impossible task. Trailing 3-0 after the Champions League semi final first leg at the Nou Camp last week, few outside certain sections of Merseyside gave Jurgen Klopp’s side even a puncher’s chance of overcoming a ruthlessly brilliant Barca side. However by 79 minutes played they had scored four goals without reply and held on to book their place in a second Champions League final in as many seasons to send Anfield into delirium.
Pre-kickoff Liverpool’s seemingly ultra slim chances were reduced further by the news that star man Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino were not fit, meaning that two of Liverpool’s front free were missing on a night where they needed goals. In stepped Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri and after just seven minutes the former of the two had given Liverpool hope with a close range tap-in after Jordan Henderson bundled his through Barcelona’s brittle backline. A frentic first half saw Liverpool typically pressing high and battling for every single loose ball reducing Barcelona to half chances that they seemed reluctant to take. Even with a two goal advantage at half time, Messi and Co seemed to be out of sync in front of classically intense Anfield crowd.
An injury to Andy Robertson meant he was replaced by Georginio Wijnaldum after the interval and within nine minutes of the restart the Dutch midfielder, who has been part of a Liverpool midfield three criticised for a lack of goals this term, had fired his team just one goal away from the visitors. With Barcelona clearly on the ropes, just two minutes later Wijnaldum got his head on the end of a teasing Shaqiri cross to level the tie up and send shockwaves around Merseyside. The look on Phillipe Coutinho’s face said it all as the TV cameras panned to him as Liverpool celebrated, the former Liverpool stalwart seemed to realise what was coming.
His, and a by now shellshocked Barcelona’s fears were fully realised when a superb piece of quick thinking from Trent Alexander-Arnold saw him sweep a corner behind Barca’s sleeping defensive wall straight to Origi who finished with real assurance to inconceivably put Klopp’s men ahead in the tie. After the wild celebrations died down, Liverpool confidently kept out a completely lost Barca side and the final whistle sparked the kind of the scenes that not even the most ardent of Liverpool supporters could have imagined.
Already being lauded by some former players as Anfield’s greatest night ever, last night’s events will do no doubt go down in history regardless of result in the final, which takes place in Madrid on June 1st. Without Salah, without Firmino, they had done it, just a day after their hopes of winning the premier league had been all but dashed.
With City now in pole position to win domestic glory with just a single gameweek left for the tide to turn, Liverpool will now revel in the fact that they have an opportunity to win a massive trophy this year. In a season where their performances have easily deserved silverware. A Champions League final last season came at the detriment of a domestic season that saw them acquire 75 points in finishing fourth. While this term they have already earned 19 more than that, with a game to spare. The cruelty of being in the same league as a team as good as Manchester City while searching for a first domestic league title in almost thirty years can now be alleviated by a potentially magical night in Madrid.
But whatever takes place on the first evening of June at the Wanda Metropolitano, Jurgen Klopp has amassed a side that is currently one of the worlds best and one that crucially has youth on its side, even when it comes to the club’s senior figures. So surely sooner rather than later Klopp’s side will have the silverware to match the dramatic days and nights they have given football thus far.