Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp admitted that he asked his side to evoke memories of past European comebacks before they conjured a stirring second-half revival to dispatch Borussia Dortmund and reach the Europa League semi-finals last night.
The Reds looked dead and buried following early goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, while Marco Reus restored Dortmund’s two-goal lead after Divock Origi netted Liverpool’s first of the night.
Needing three goals to reach the last four, their hopes appeared forlorn, but strikes from Philippe Coutinho and Mamadou Sakho laid the foundations for a rousing finale, and centre-half Dejan Lovren duly obliged with the knockout blow in stoppage-time.
“I told the lads about some older Liverpool players who were 3-0 down in a final and won the Champions League [against AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005] so even when it’s not likely you can do it,” said Klopp.
“It’s much more difficult to do it than to say it. The players showed they have potential but we don’t need to compare nights. This tonight was brilliant in itself.
“When we scored everyone could see something happen in the stadium. I could feel it, smell it. Very often in football life the game is over, but not here. Not with this Liverpool team. It is great to be part of.
“I know this is a place for big football moments. We did not start this story but we know our responsibility to write some stories in football.”
Liverpool were the only remaining unbeaten side in the Europa League this season with four victories and seven draws, but found themselves on the ropes within the opening 10 minutes.
The Reds were undone by a blistering counter-attack after only four minutes which culminated in Mkhitaryan converting a close-range rebound after goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had repelled a sizzling Aubameyang volley.
Dortmund extended their aggregate lead five minutes later when Liverpool again conceded cheap possession and within seconds the ball was in their net, as Aubameyang rifled high past Mignolet.
Belgian striker Origi ignited the tie three minutes after the restart when he accelerated through on goal and poked past Dortmund stopper Roman Weidenfeller.
Liverpool’s renewed hope was short-lived as Dortmund retaliated. A scything pass from composed skipper Mats Hummels freed Reus who swept past Mignolet. But the hosts refused to go quietly and netted once more after 65 minutes as Coutinho exchanged passes with midfielder James Milner before whipping a low, curling effort beyond a helpless Weidenfeller.
Liverpool set up a thrilling finish when Mamadou Sakho stooped to meet an inswinging corner and nod home his first goal since December 2013, before pandemonium ensued as Lovren powered home at the far post from a dinked Milner cross.