At first it seemed like the stuff of fairy tales. Liverpool had started the Champions league Semifinal night with little chance to advance, being down 4-0 on aggregate against Barcelona, after a disastorous outing in Spain. In addition, Liverpool were missing the likes of Bobby Firmino or Mohammed Salah.
A 7th minute Divock Origi goal gave the home side life though, with Anfield roaring as one for the entire match. At half time the score was 1-0, with Barcelona failing to score despite a few clear cut scoring chances.
Two goals in rapid succession by Gini Wijnaldum put the Reds within one, with over half an hour to play, as the nervousness in Barcelona’s game began to show.
Lionel Messi got into range to score soon after, but Alisson, who was having a great night in goal, got in the way.
It was in the 77th minute that Trent-Alexander Arnold’s quickly taken corner surprised Barcelona and picked off Divock Origi’s open right foot near the front post; with which he finished the ball into the opposite top corner. Anfield erupted as the match pair was even on aggregate. For Barcelona, the score was a disaster, an all too painful reminder of last year’s UCL exit in Roma.
The match went to extra-time, with little action in the last 15 of regular time. There was a true sense that despite the score being tied, this was Liverpool’s night. The Reds’ attacks were gaining more and more momentum and it was the hero of the night, Divock Origi, who nearly scored right before half time in extra time, with a header off an Arnold cross, which Ter Stegen barely got his hands on.
However, it wasn’t mean to be for Liverpool. It was the man who finished off Barcelona’s 4-0 home win, who scored the decider at Anfield as well. In the 112th minute, a brilliant Messi run started a rapid Barcelona counter-attack. Messi distributed the ball to an advancing Luis Suarez, with Liverpool players desperately flying back to defense. A defensive error by the two red defensemen who both lunged to thwart the Uruguyan entering the box from the left, left Ousmane Dembele alone near the penalty spot. A cool pass from the former Liverpool striker reached Dembele, who made no mistake, placing the ball straight from the pass beyond Alisson with Trent Alexmader Arnold not making it in time to stop to stop the Frenchman from finishing.
The goal was a slap in the face for Liverpool, who had controlled the tempo for the entirety of extra time. Even the Liverpool players seemed to realize that two goals in the last 10 wasn’t doable anymore. Liverpool’s attacks stalled and it was Barcelona that was closest to scoring another, with only a Robertson clearence off the line preventing a Pique header after a scramble in the box.
The match ender 4-1 for Liverpool and 5-4 on aggregate for Barcelona, who survived a formidable Semifinal challenge from the reds. Despite the dissapointing result, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp found positives after an enthralling encounter. “The boys put in a great shift and the fans were fantastic as always. It’s a shame we couldn’t go all the way, but it was still a great run and I’m sure we’ll be back next year. Now we’ll focus on doing all we can to win the league.”
Barcelona will face either Ajax Amsterdamn or Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League Final on June 1 in Madrid, where they’ll go for their sixth title. The second semifinal leg between Ajax and Tottenham will be in Amsterdam tonight, with Ajax holding a 1-0 aggregate advantage.