Liverpool had the task of doing unthinkable and that too against a side that boosted World’s best player in shape of Lionel Messi. The absence of Mohammad Salah and other players meant there backs were against the wall with no light at the end of the tunnel visible. But they did what many believed was unthinkable and stunned the World of Football.
Liverpool’s task seemed unthinkable: pierce the Barcelona defense four times, keep the ball out of its own net and do it all without one of the world’s preeminent goal scorers, Mohamed Salah.
And then it happened. The Reds played 90 minutes of unimaginably polished soccer in front of a frenzied home crowd. They shut out Barcelona and Lionel Messi, 4-0, winning the Champions League semifinal matchup, 4-3 on aggregate. Their offense was intense. Their defense was laudable. And now they will play for a European title against either Tottenham or Ajax.
Barcelona led, 3-0, after the first leg at Camp Nou, with Messi scoring twice, including once on a majestic, bending free kick. On Tuesday, he made a few dangerous runs through swarms of defenders, but was not able to lift his side this time.
By contrast, Liverpool’s inspired effort had Manager Jurgen Klopp struggling to stick to the usual coach-speak script.
“Most of the children are probably in bed, but these boys are f—— giants,” he said on camera, taking note of the late hour. “It’s unbelievable. If you have to fine me, fine me.”
Divock Origi scored on a rebound in the seventh minute, giving Liverpool the start it desperately needed, but Barcelona could still feel fairly confident in its chances. Then the Reds’ Georginio Wijnaldum scored twice — two minutes apart, in the 54th and 56th minutes — before Origi scored again on a sneaky corner kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold in the 79th minute.
Alexander-Arnold went to take the corner, then walked away from the ball. As he did, Barcelona’s defense relaxed, and Alexander-Arnold quickly went back over the ball and swept a low, hard cross to Origi, who slotted it in and gave Liverpool a winning margin that few expected at the start of the day.
“Unbelievable. I don’t think many people gave us a chance,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said. “Before the game we knew that it would be difficult, but it was still possible, of course. It’s amazing. We knew that at Anfield we could do something special.”
For the second straight year, Barcelona found itself on the wrong end of one of a comeback. In 2018, the Spanish colossus squandered a 4-1, first-leg lead against AS Roma and was ousted in the quarterfinals. Manager Ernesto Valverde had said Monday of that humiliation, “We’ve learned our lesson.”
Valverde also described the absences of Salah and another Liverpool standout, Roberto Firmino, as “a big miss for them,” but on Tuesday it was his star-studded side that appeared in need of a boost.
Messi created several promising offensive beginnings, but none of his teammates were finishers. Barcelona keeper Marc-André ter Stegen got his body on one shot, but couldn’t keep it out, and was caught napping on the fourth and decisive goal.
When the clock struck the 95th minute of stoppage time, Anfield Stadium burst into rapturous cheers.
Liverpool became just the third team in the history of the European Cup to advance in the semifinals after falling behind by three goals in the first leg, according to the Associated Press. The others were Panathinaikos, in 1970-71, and as fate would have it, Barcelona in 1985-86.