Sport Soccer

Saturday 21 September 2019

Wijnaldum and Origi fire Reds to final destination on Anfield night for the ages

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (Liverpool win 4-3 on aggregate)

Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum scores their second goal. Photo: Reuters
Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum scores their second goal. Photo: Reuters

Sam Wallace

This was supposed to be the competition that mattered the least of the two that remained in the last days of Liverpool's epic 2018-2019 season. Over the course of 99 extraordinary minutes, suddenly it felt like this team, in this time, had found their calling at last.

No team comes back from three down to score four without reply against Barcelona in the second leg of a Champions League semi-final without wondering if the hand of destiny is not ushering them down an alternative path to glory.

Monday night and Manchester City edged the Premier League just a little further from Liverpool's grasp and then came Tuesday night when the response at Anfield was, quite frankly, stupendous. This kind of comeback in a Champions league semi-final has never happened before against anyone, let alone the Barcelona of the era of Lionel Messi, a man on a mission and having greatly declared his genius in the conclusion of the first leg.

That this comeback happened without Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, assorted others, plus Jordan Henderson on one leg and Andy Robertson carted off at half-time will just add to the legend.

It was Robertson's replacement, Georginio Wijnaldum who got goals two and three in the second half and the match-winning hero was another dedicated occasional, Divock Origi - Jurgen Klopp's specialist in the improbable. He struck his first on seven minutes, and the second with 11 minutes remaining.

Madrid, on June 1, will be the ninth European Cup final of Liverpool's history, this one against Tottenham Hotspur or Ajax. It will be Klopp's second in two years, and you have to think that they will be favourites for their sixth title.

Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (C) heads the ball to score their third goal. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (C) heads the ball to score their third goal. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Grievance

There was a grievance of Messi's that carried throughout the game borne of an early tangle with his Scottish opponent, the Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson. The game's greatest player spent more time admonishing his opponent than he usually dedicates to the missteps of mere mortals.

Whatever Messi did after that seemed to have rather more of a malevolent intent than the usual indifference with which he routinely inflicts pain on the opposition. Like his teammates, he wilted in the unique atmosphere of Anfield. The famous old stadium that has produced so many special nights reserved its most special for this occasion.

It was quite something to hear Liverpool's former favourite, Luis Suarez, being called a "cheat" by the Kop and then told in more direct terms what they would have liked him to do. There was a time when he could do no wrong in the eye of Liverpool fans, but at Anfield last night it was hard to believe such a time ever existed.

Liverpool's Divock Origi scores their first goal. Photo: Reuters
Liverpool's Divock Origi scores their first goal. Photo: Reuters

Against all this as a backdrop, Liverpool scored the early goal they so badly needed. A mistake from Jordi Alba meant that possession was turned over deep in Barcelona territory on seven minutes and Sadio Mane was able to poke the ball into the path of Henderson's run. He sidestepped Gerard Pique beautifully and the rebound from his saved shot fell to Anfield's man of the moment, Origi, to score.

It was a slow burner of a start from Barcelona, who had been treated to a late fireworks display outside their Liverpool hotel the previous night, but they came good after that and this game was soon a great drama.

Messi's twisting, burrowing runs into the Liverpool half were the main incursion and there was so much else to see. A set of fine saves from Alisson for one, as the home team inevitably opened up.

Then there were the tackles too. Fabinho booked for thundering into Suarez. Milner on the same opponent. Henderson down for a long period of treatment on his right knee after colliding with Alba. Sergio Busquets jumping into Fabinho for a high ball. Messi never quite got over Robertson shoving his head.

The full-back had originally landed on top of him. Robertson never came out for the second half, a collision with Suarez off the ball having done for him. Robertson had been treated for a while on the pitch in the first half, his problem seeming to have come from a relatively innocuous fall although it is upon such details that great new plans are hatched.

Forced to make the change, Klopp brought on Wijnaldum and within 10 minutes the tie was level. The collapse of Barcelona was a surprise to say the least. Klopp had moved Milner back to left-back, pushed Mane up alongside Origi and moved Shaqiri to the left midfield position.

Provider

The first goal came from the right when Alexander-Arnold was again the provider and Wijnaldum ran onto the cross.

Within two minutes he had scored a second, emerging unmarked to head in a cross from the newly-configured left side, when Milner had slipped a ball down the line for Shaqiri to cross.

Barcelona's three-goal lead had been erased. Philippe Coutinho barely made the hour mark before he was replaced with Nelson Semedo. And then to the winner, created by a corner from Alexander-Arnold that deceived the Barcelona defence.

He walked away as if to leave it to Shaqiri, dashed back and with the away defence asleep, Origi took the ball first time, dispatching it into the top corner.

It was that kind of night, one for the brave and the bold

Telegraph.co.uk

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