Liverpool fans have experienced plenty of emphatic European nights at Anfield – glorious occasions such as St Etienne in 1977 and Olympiakos and Chelsea on the road to Champions League glory in 2005 are firmly stamped into the club’s history. Borussia Dortmund can be added to that list.
Borussia Dortmund can be added to that list.
Heart, grit, determination and the support from the Anfield crowd was the formula for Liverpool to complete the impossible and drag themselves into the Europa League semi-final. Jurgen Klopp would have dreamed for such magical nights when he took charge of the Reds last October; he may have experienced one much sooner than first expected.
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Through Klopp’s never-say-die character he’s embedded into the players, Liverpool snatched victory against Dortmund from the jaws of defeat.
As Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel said in his post-match press conference, the scoreline “was not logical.” But, for a club renowned for fight-backs, it was never beyond the realms of impossibility.
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Every player in the Red shirt gave it everything on the pitch, playing with the badge on their sleeve. Divock Origi came of age and two unlikely sources in Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren pushed Liverpool over the finishing line.
It really was heart in the mouth stuff on Merseyside from the moment the game kicked off. You’ll Never Walk Alone belted out from both sets of supporters – the stage was set for an incredible game.
Klopp would have wished for a solid start from the Reds. No mistakes, nothing daft, just to keep things steady for the opening 15 minutes.
Instead, Liverpool found themselves two down after just nine minutes and with a monumental mountain to climb.
Dortmund were far from at their best in the first leg in Germany last week in the 1-1 draw. The Reds had a precious away goal to their advantage; however, that was never going to be relevant.
A cut-throat performance from BVB was expected and they were likely to score at some stage or the other – it took them just five minutes to break the deadlock.
Dortmund are one of the best teams in the world on the counter-attack and Liverpool felt the wrath of their finest attribute. Philippe Coutinho’s loose pass allowed Dortmund to break and they punished the Reds.
Nathaniel Clyne has been solid since arriving from Southampton last summer but he was caught out ball watching for the visitors’ opener. He failed to track the run of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who’s effort was well saved by Simon Mignolet but Henrikh Mkhitaryan was in to fire the rebound home.
Liverpool were not left deflated but, again, fell for the German outfit’s sucker punch. This time, Roberto Firmino was careless in possession, with the ball falling to Dortmund’s main protagonist, Marco Reus.
Reus, who was nurtured into one of the world’s best when stewarded by Klopp at Dortmund, spotted the run of Aubameyang. The Gabon international ran beyond a static Sakho and smashed his effort into the top corner to grab his 37th goal from 44 appearances this season.
However, Kopites still believed. They’d witnessed their side claw back a 3-0 deficit in the Champions League final against the great AC Milan in Istanbul. One goal meant Liverpool would be right back in the hunt.
The Reds dominated the rest of the half for the most part. Mignolet came to their rescue twice more and it would have been game over if he did not claw Mkhitaryan’s cross out of Aubameyang’s path.
Origi was expected to be fourth choice striker at the start of the season but he’s arguably now at the front of the forward pecking order. His speed, power and movement gave Die Borussen's back-four all sorts of problems before the break. He had an effort blocked at the near post before intelligently picking out Alberto Moreno at the back stick, but the Spaniard blazed his effort wide.
Further chances went begging at the Anfield Road end. Origi flicked one past the far post, Firmino headed wide and Adam Lallana fluffed his lines when presented with a golden chance, missing the ball completely.
As good as Liverpool were on the attack, they failed to test Roman Weidenfeller in the first period and knew they would eventually find themselves too far behind if they did not take their chances in the second period.
The hosts were soon rewarded for their pressure after the interval. Emre Can bombed forward and slid his pass beyond the Dortmund defence to reach Origi, who kept his nerve and slotted past Weidenfeller with Liverpool’s first effort on target. It was the Belgium international’s fourth goal in a week and he has certainly blossomed from a lost sheep when Klopp first took charge into a striker with bundles of talent.
Like all incredible stories, the game took another twist in the 57th minute. Again, Clyne was exposed off guard, this time with Reus sneaking in behind and burying his effort beyond the stretching Mignolet. Although 15th April 2016 will be remembered as an evening of such ecstasy and celebration in the long term, Klopp will still firmly know there are major improvements at the back needed.
Once again, Liverpool was hit with an overhand right that would have given so many other teams the ten count. Instead, they took it on the chin, gritted their teeth, shook themselves up and threw a bombardment of left-right combinations at Dortmund who eventually crumbled through the flurry of pressure.
When it comes to goals of importance, Phillipe Coutinho has so often been the Reds’ go-to man. Again, he stepped up to the plate. Although at fault for BVB’s first, he made amends by clawing Liverpool back into the match. A wonderful one-two with James Milner created space for the Brazilian and his effort went beyond the reach of Weidenfeller. It really was game on.
Lallana and Firmino were replaced by Joe Allen and Daniel Sturridge, who both had a huge impact on the game in their own right. Allen’s energy in the midfield helped control possession and he was also gutsy when without it whereas Sturridge gave Mats Hummels and co. another attacking option to be wary about.
Liverpool struggled to whip in a decent corner all night, with most failing to clear the near post. Ironically, that’s how they grabbed their equaliser. Coutinho took over from Milner's duties and his poor corner was not cleared. There was Sakho lurking in the box to head home with 13 minutes left on the clock. The Frenchman delivered Dortmund a thunderous uppercut and had the away side legless on the ropes, covered up and hanging on for the bell.
The end of the round was not to be their saviour, however. The Reds continued their pressure on Dortmund and eventually delivered the knockout blow.
Milner’s corners had been poor all game, but his crosses from open play were sublime. Sturridge’s neat footwork created space for his England teammate, who got to the by-line and put a perfect ball into the box.
Dejan Lovren was the pantomime villain when he fired his effort into the stands in last year’s FA Cup semi-final in the dying stages. This time around, he was crowned the hero when his header left Weidenfeller helpless. Anfield erupted and every Liverpool player firmly wrote themselves into club folklore.
It was a team effort, inspired by the attitude Klopp has brought to the club. In the early stages of his reign, when fans left early in Liverpool’s loss to Crystal Palace, he reminded every individual the game is not finished until the final whistle is blown. Scoring in the 91st minute means as much as scoring in the 1st minute and Lovren’s winner proved to never give up.
Liverpool thwarted a side oozing with class. It was players like Origi and Lovren, who’ve been scrutinised in the past, who rose to the occasion and there will not be one of Klopp’s players who do not believe they can go all the way to winning the competition.