Tuesday 7 May 2019 11:04 pm

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona: Reds’ supporting cast come to the fore in stunning Champions League turnaround at Anfield


I am a sports writer at City A.M, covering primarily football and cricket. Get in touch: felix.keith@cityam.com

I am a sports writer at City A.M, covering primarily football and cricket. Get in touch: felix.keith@cityam.com

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Anfield has seen some famous nights, especially in European football, but this was special.

Trailing 3-0 from the first leg, against one of Europe’s most prestigious, decorated and star-studded sides, Liverpool pulled off the biggest turnaround in Champions League semi-final history.

Read more: Trevor Steven: The two factors that unite City and Liverpool

Shorn of two of their three top scorers, they created new heroes, with the four goals they needed coming from a striker perennially in the shadows and a man who only found himself on the pitch through necessity, due to injury.

Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum were the unlikely stars of the unlikely comeback, but fitted the narrative of an unforgettable night in Liverpool perfectly.

Anfield atmosphere

Before the game Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp spent all his time in front of cameras, journalists and in his programme notes instilling the belief that mission impossible was, in fact, possible.

In case that message had not sunk in for some, sitting in the stands the injured Mohamed Salah sported a T-shirt bearing the slogan Never Give Up.

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg
The Anfield atmosphere helped Liverpool push on (Source: Getty)

Whether the thousands of fans funnelling into Anfield believed it or not, they played their part, producing the kind of intense, all-encompassing and finally joyous atmosphere the stadium has become famed for and which added that extra percentage point.

Talk of the Kop End sucking the ball into the net may be overdoing it, but right from the word go, with the home side visibly pumped up, the backdrop provided fertile conditions for an upset.


Man for the moment

If Origi never scores another goal for Liverpool it won’t matter: his cult hero status is assured.

Not content with a Merseyside derby winner against Everton in December and a last-gasp decider at Newcastle on Saturday night to keep Liverpool in the Premier League title race until this weekend’s final round, the Belgian striker upped the ante.

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg
Origi has proven himself a man for the big moments (Source: Getty)

When Marc-Andre ter Stegen pushed out Jordan Henderson’s attempt seven minutes in, there he was to tap in the opener.

And when the outstanding Trent Alexander-Arnold’s instinctive quick thinking spotted him unmarked in a static Barcelona penalty area from a corner, there he was to sweep into the top corner the crowning glory 79 minutes in.

“It’s just special,” Origi told BT Sport on the pitch afterwards. “It’s hard to describe with words.”

Wave of belief

Wijnaldum was more forthcoming with his emotions. “I was really angry with the manager putting me on the bench,” he admitted. “I just tried to help my team and I’m happy I could do that with two goals.”

Origi’s strikes bookended the night, but Wijnaldum’s changed the complexion, coming two minutes and two seconds apart after he came onto the pitch at half-time in place of the injured Andy Robertson.

FBL-EUR-C1-LIVERPOOL-BARCELONA
Wijnaldum scored twice in two minutes to make it possible (Source: Getty)

Alexander-Arnold was once again the architect, winning the ball off Jordi Alba and crossing low for the late-arriving Wijnaldum to tuck underneath Ter Stegen. From the resulting kick-off Xherdan Shaqiri’s ball from the opposite flank found the Holland midfielder unmarked to head in for 3-0 and create a wave of belief.

Barcelona were rattled and suddenly all the pre-match talk seemed plausible.

Battered Barca

Barcelona had no excuses. Every single player was fresh, having been rested at the weekend in a 2-0 defeat by Celta Vigo.

And with Ousmane Dembele having missed a gilt-edged chance with the last kick of the first leg, they conspired to miss more at Anfield.

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg
Luis Suarez was enemy No1 at Anfield (Source: Getty)

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was in inspired form, but there were more than enough openings to score the crucial away goal which would have killed the tie, with Alba, Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and pantomime villain Luis Suarez all denied.

Instead of reaching their first Champions League final for four years Ernesto Valverde’s side conspired to produce a painful repeat of last season’s 3-0 away defeat at Roma which sent them out at the quarter-finals on away goals, after a 4-1 home leg win.

For Barca it’s a case of what-ifs once again. For Liverpool, after the pain of last season’s final, a first Champions League trophy since that fabled night in Istanbul is within reach once again.

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