The story of the remarkable comeback by Liverpool FC against Barcelona on Tuesday would be best told in years to come. In the African context, it would be a folktale, the kind of story shared at night under the big tree in the village square to innocent kids.
Overturning a 3-0 first leg deficit was no mean feat especially against Barcelona, a team that boasts arguably one of the best players to grace the game, Lionel Messi.
Whatever the outcome of the final match on June 1 in Madrid, it remains a fact that Liverpool has once again written their names in gold and football lovers will forever remember that night at Anfield when the impossible became possible.
Let’s take a look at four talking points from the match.
Valverde not the right man for Barcelona
Ernesto Valverde, despite winning back-to-back La Liga titles for Barcelona, has shown once again that he is not the right person to deliver a Champions League trophy to the Catalans.
Thunder, they say, doesn’t strike twice but Tuesday’s humiliating defeat was just a replica of the 2017/2018 Champions League season where, despite taking a first leg 4-1 advantage at the Camp Nou, Barcelona were shocked at the Stadio Olimpico stadium when they got beaten 3-0 by Roma in the Quarter Finals.
Football remains a team sport irrespective of the individual flashes of brilliance that spring up every now and then. Relying on Messi’s talisman sometimes is never enough and when it mattered the most, Valverde once again showed the world that he lacks the technical know-how to defend a three-goal margin.
Over-Reliance on Lionel Messi
A day before the match, news broke that Liverpool’s version of Messi and their leading goal scorer, Mohammed Salah, would miss the match following an injury he sustained during the Premier League match with Newcastle United. Also to miss the match was Brazilian Roberto Firmino. On paper, it all looked gloomy for Liverpool. However, The Reds played one of their best games on the night scoring four goals to knock out Barcelona.
On Tuesday, it was obvious that Lionel Messi wasn’t at his best as he couldn’t boss the game the way he did during the first leg at the Camp Nou. Anytime he had the ball, he was overcrowded and made to look ordinary. Sadly, that had a way of rubbing off on his teammates who couldn’t inspire the team.
Suarez, Coutinho and a host of others were shadows of themselves and this only reminds us that, despite his brilliance, Messi is only human after all.
Could Barcelona have pulled such a comeback without Messi? That is highly unlikely.
Klopp got his tactics spot on!
One doesn’t have to be a fan of Jurgen Klopp to know that his tactics and team selection played a major role in demystifying Barcelona. Origi and Shaqiri, two fringe players were trusted to lead the charge in the absence of Mo Salah and Firmino and they delivered.
Liverpool were fluid with their movement and they played with an intensity that Barcelona couldn’t match. Shaqiri was a thorn in the flesh of Jodi Alba all night, exploiting the space provided by the left back.
For a coach who didn’t have his best player on the pitch, Klopp sure deserved some credit.
The electrifying atmosphere at Anfield
In an exclusive interview with beIN Sports, Jose Mourinho said, “One of the best atmospheres I have ever played football in is Anfield. So, when we say impossible is nothing, definitely it’s there that impossible is nothing but almost impossible.”
Coming from a man who has traveled the world with different teams and played at different stadia, that statement was spot on.
From kick-off till the final whistle, the fans were spectacular, urging almost every kick, every tackle and pass from their team. It reminded one of those scenes in ancient Roman empires, where bloodthirsty spectators cheer their various gladiators to death.
The fans, however, saved the best part for the last when the stadium erupted in signing the “You Will Never Walk Alone” anthem. It was indeed a special night. One of those few nights that only the UEFA Champions League can produce.