Liverpool stunned the world to reach a second successive Champions League final with a relentless performance built on sheer, unadulterated belief, while being helped along the way by the mother of all capitulations from Barcelona.
There was a myriad of quality on show as Liverpool became the first side since the European Cup became the Champions League to overcome a three-goal semi-final deficit to progress to the final, beating the might of Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate after an awe-inspiring comeback at Anfield on Wednesday night.
From Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick-thinking from the corner that enabled Divock Origi to scoop home what proved to the winner, to Alisson’s fine stop to deny Jordi Alba at a crucial moment, to beat Barca, and so convincingly, you cannot rely on sheer gusto alone.
There were big performances from some key personnel – Virgil van Dijk was once again a rock at the back, with the relentless Jordan Henderson again covering every blade of grass for the cause.
Yet, despite such brilliance from Jurgen Klopp’s men, this was a performance built on raw emotion, a victory that came about due to breathless determination, with logic cast aside.
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Even with such palpable desire and drive, booming down from the Kop and oozing out of the players, to score four goals without reply against the tournament favourites, something more is needed, something unforeseen, an act of God, and in a guise of a pitiful Barcelona surrender, Liverpool got that divine inspiration.
“I said it was impossible, but because it is you, we have a chance,” Klopp said after the match. “I cannot remember a lot like this. I don’t know how the boys did it.”
There have been clues aplenty to how they could muster such a rousing turnaround. When Liverpool were well beaten by a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona two weeks ago, before the marginal manner of City’s win at Burnley to again go back to the top of the table, Liverpool were supposed to, finally, fall away.
Liverpool twice lead at St James’ Park against Newcastle on Saturday, but were pegged back on both occasions – their title tilt had been a valiant, but they had ultimately come up short.
Then, up stepped the forgotten man Origi, heading the winner to take the title race to the final day, before the same man, even more unfathomably, put the might of Barcelona to the sword on the most incredible of Anfield nights.
Even after Origi’s early opener, the mood around Anfield was more of optimism for giving a it a good go, a spirited defeat the best that could happen against the La Liga champions.
Throw into that a three-goal advantage - without an away goal - to overcome and injured talismen Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino unable to spearhead the attack – even at 1-0, Anfield was still be thinking as much about whether Suarez would celebrate if he scored as they were their team doing the unthinkable.
This is where Klopp comes into his own. This was a Liverpool XI with Origi, who spent last season on loan at Wolfsburg, lining up alongside Xherdan Shaqiri, starting his first game since the end of January.
James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Joel Matip – while these are excellent players in their own right, their previous accomplishments pale in comparison to the medal haul of their Barca counterparts such as Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic or Jordi Alba.
Where Klopp makes up the difference is he instils that belief, that emotion to unprecedented levels.
“Just try, and if we can do it, wonderful,” he said pre-match. “If not, fail in the most beautiful way.” In other words, have a go, and let fate do its thing, and see if you get a helping hand along the way and, because it involved his impassioned soldiers, as he emotionally eulogised after the match, they had every chance.
Even Klopp, though, could not have foreseen yet another Barca capitulation. Mark my words, this was infinitely worse than last year’s submission in Rome as they exited at the quarter-final stage having been three goals up against Roma after the first leg.
This was a Barca side in its prime, one that had learned their lessons from last season in the Italian capital, one that possessed an incarnation of Messi that many regarded as the best of the lot, and one that had sealed yet another La Liga crown with consummate ease.
To a man, Barca were inept in the extreme, succumbing under the weight of Liverpool’s insatiable will to win.
“When you lose 4-0 there are no excuses,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said dejectedly after the match. “Liverpool rolled us over. They were better and we have to accept that. We apologise to the fans.
“We haven't had time to think about those things. But here we are and the coach has to take responsibility.”
And someone really has to. As former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler put it in the immediate aftermath, this was the greatest of all the European nights for Liverpool, but for all their drive and never-say-die desire, Barca played their part in the famous night, but not in a way anyone, even the most optimistic of Liverpool followers, could have envisaged.News Now - Sport News