LIVERPOOL 4, BARCELONA 0
Liverpool’s players had their hands on their heads, seemingly unable to comprehend their achievement. One of them, James Milner, was in tears. When he wasn’t punching the air, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp stood in front of The Kop in full voice and just took it all in.
Just when Liverpool fans thought they had seen it all — the so-called “Miracle of Istanbul” in particular, but also those storied comebacks at Anfield against Saint-Etienne, Olympiakos and Borussia Dortmund down the years — along came another European night that just might top them all.
The Liverpool players faced a 3-0 deficit against Barcelona from the first leg of the Champions League semifinals. They faced the great Lionel Messi, perhaps in the best form of his life. They faced fatigue from a grueling Premier League title race with Manchester City and the absence of two of the team’s key forwards, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
How to explain, then, a remarkable 4-0 win that sent Liverpool into a second straight Champions League final, 4-3 on aggregate?
“We know this club is a mix of atmosphere, emotion, desire and footballing quality,” Klopp said. “For me, this club has a big heart and tonight the heart was pounding like crazy. You could feel it all over the world.”
It took a goal of breathtaking quality — but also extraordinary cheek — to complete the greatest in a long line of famous comebacks by Liverpool, which is one win away from becoming European champion for a sixth time.
Euphoria had already engulfed Anfield when Liverpool, leading 3-0 and smothering Barcelona with its intensity, was awarded a corner in the 79th minute. Trent Alexander-Arnold, a 20-year-old right back, put the ball down in the quadrant and then turned around as if he was about to leave the kick to a teammate.
In an instant, he spun round again and whipped in a low cross that Barcelona’s players weren’t prepared for. Divock Origi was ready, though, and he swept home a finish from eight meters into the top corner for his second goal of the game.
Klopp was full of praise for the lucid thinking of Alexander-Arnold, the youngest player on the Liverpool team, and said he hadn’t even seen the corner being taken.
“Incredibly smart,” Klopp said, shaking his head. “Genius.”
It was only the third time in the history of the competition that a team rallied from three goals down after the first leg of a semifinal and progressed to the final, after Panathinaikos in 1970-71 and Barcelona in 1985-86. No team had done it in the Champions League era.
“When you have a collapse of this nature,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said, “we will have a few horrible days ahead.”Steve Douglas, Liverpool, AP