by @TopolskiMatt on Twitter
It was stunning, sensational and for Liverpool supporters like myself, it felt like being born again. On a “European Night” at Anfield, 90 minutes of football became spiritual and millions of supporters around the world were connected emotionally in ways that escape my limited vocabulary.
Liverpool Football Club entered the second leg of the Champions League semifinal trailing Barcelona by 3 goals to 0 – on aggregate and if they were to overcome the massive deficit they would have to do it without the likes of two of their most prolific playmakers.
Roberto Firmino was not cleared due to a nagging injury he picked up in training and Mohamed Salah was out due to a head injury he suffered just days ago in a collision with Newcastle United Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
Despite a three goal deficit, despite not having two of the front three that has made Liverpool’s attack so blistering, and despite Barcelona having arguably the greatest player on the planet, it didn’t matter, none of it mattered.
On this night, on this ground, in front of these supporters, Liverpool made the kind of history that will redefine a club already rich in it.
The emotion displayed by players, the manager, club legends and supporters was a tidal wave of euphoria that can only be topped by a sixth European Cup or by capturing an elusive Premier League title Sunday.
Liverpool did the impossible, overcoming a three-goal deficit against Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League, by scoring 4 and not conceding a single goal to Messi or Suarez.
By reaching their second straight Champions League final, Klopp’s side took one more step towards immortality thanks in large part to a seed that was planted by Jurgen Klopp ahead of kick-off.
“Congratulations to Klopp,” Lovren told Liverpoolfc.com. “Before the game he had an amazing speech, it was something brilliant that he did. I think he lifted us so up.”
“He said like, ‘Boys, believe – one goal or two goals. Even if we don’t score in the first 15, 20 minutes, believe in the 65, 66, 67 minutes that we can score. With Anfield behind, trust me, we can do it.’
Asked what the boss said, the defender revealed: “‘Boys, just believe. Put in your mind that we can do it.’ It’s something that we never heard before.
“We did it once, he said, the [Borussia] Dortmund game – we can do it tonight. And we did it.”
The comeback for the Reds started early, as Salah replacement Divock Origi got on the score sheet in minute 7 after a goalkeeper deflection from a Jordan Henderson strike on target.
Henderson, fought off an injury later in the match and stayed on to have a monster of a game in midfield, putting together the type of performance that should silence some of his harshest critics.
Former Liverpool defender Alan Kennedy told talkSport:
“Jordan Henderson led his team by example. I thought he really stood up to the mark. He was tremendous in what he did, how he organised.
“And they’ve got players like James Milner who can do a great job in any position and he had to fill in for Andrew Robertson.”
Kennedy played a key role in the European Cups he won at Liverpool, scoring the winning goal against Real Madrid in 1981 and the winning spot-kick in a penalty shootout against Roma in 1984.
The Barcelona match has been labelled as the club’s ‘greatest ever night at Anfield’ by Phil Thompson and Thommo’s former team-mate Kennedy echoed these views but also referred to their David Fairclough-inspired comeback against St Etienne in 1977.
Liverpool entered the second half of the semi final second leg needing two goals to level and force extra time. Roughly 10 minutes into the second half the Reds lost left-back Andrew Robertson to classic Luis Suarez shit-house tactics.
As a result of the Robertson injury, Georginio Wijnaldum entered the game and simultaneously entered Liverpool lore.
Wijnaldum found the back of the net twice in back-to-back chances inside the 18; finding himself unmarked twice and leaving Barcelona fans wondering what the hell was happening. But we knew, because we’ve seen that header before.
The fourth and final nail in the coffin came after 78 minutes, thanks to a cold blooded dagger fit to kill the Night King courtesy of Trent Alexander-Arnold (with the cheeky corner) and Divock Origi with the finish.
Barcelona’s defense was woefully unprepared and as they went to sleep in front of the KOP, a 20 year old phenom at right-back and a twice loaned Belgian replacement forward sent Anfield into a Benny Hinn seizure.
Liverpool have advanced to the UEFA Champions League Final for a second consecutive year and will face the winner of Ajax vs Tottenham Hotspur. At the time of this article’s writing, Ajax was holding a 2-0 lead on Aggregate. Assuming they advance, it would produce a mouthwatering final featuring two attacking sides.
In this year’s tournament, both Ajax and Liverpool have combined to eliminate Juventus, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona; a who’s who of European Football. Neither side has had an easy path to the final proving both are battle tested.
UPDATE: Tottenham has defeated Ajax 3-2 on aggregate! Unbelievable. An all English final.
Details to come…
The Champions League Final will take place Saturday, June 1st from the Estadio Metropolitano and if Tuesday Night at Anfield is any indication of what’s to come, then the Reds will be marching into Madrid ready to collect their sixth infinity stone.