how Liverpool pulled off Mission Impossible

10 May, 2019 - 00:05 0 Views
how Liverpool pulled off Mission Impossible Liverpool’s players soaked up the adulation of the fans in front of The Kop after full-time

The ManicaPost

A sense of disbelief still grips Merseyside after the extraordinary events of Tuesday, when Liverpool defied logic to dump Barcelona out of the Champions League.

The 4-0 victory, which avenged the first leg 3-0 defeat in Catalonia, has propelled Liverpool into their ninth European Cup final and the story of the remarkable 90 minutes that set up the prospect of them winning the biggest trophy of all will be told – and re-told – until June 1.

Here Sportsmail analyses how Jurgen Klopp and his relentless players carved a place for themselves in history and showed why it never, ever pays to give up.

The build up

You cannot understate how big an effort it was for Liverpool’s squad to raise themselves mentally for this examination. The past eight weeks have been draining and there was a danger that events out of their control on Monday night could have been fatal.

After finishing a light training session at Melwood, the players headed to their homes to watch Manchester City’s tussle with Leicester City, hoping and praying for a favour in the title race. Vincent Kompany’s wonder striker, then, was a like a dagger, skewering their dreams.

They reported to Hope Street Hotel, their usual base, on Tuesday morning to begin preparations. Without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, many viewed the task as being beyond them but Klopp has created a culture where pessimism or being defeatist is not allowed.

Away from the cameras on Monday afternoon, you could detect from Klopp that he knew there was a glimmer of hope and he intimated there would be tactics to take Barcelona by surprise. In his own methodical and calm way, he got the message across that there was an opportunity for Liverpool.

By the time the team coach made its way through plumes of red smoke on Anfield Road, the group were in a state of mind that enabled them to fly out the blocks.

There was no hangover from what City had achieved, in the same way Barcelona’s first leg win had not left any permanent scars.

The tactics

It was evident in the first leg that the speed at which Liverpool play caused Barcelona problems. In the first half in the Camp Nou, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi both ended up with their hands on their knees, taking gasps of air.

Teams in La Liga don’t press like Premier League teams press.

Klopp had erred on the side of caution in Barcelona, resting Trent Alexander-Arnold for Joe Gomez, but at Anfield the full-backs were always going to play a huge part in attack; the England international was restored and he and Andrew Robertson were given licence to drive forward.

The formation suggested Liverpool were playing 4-3-3 but the reality was Fabinho acted as the shield and Jordan Henderson and James Milner were given encouragement to support the attack.

You could see from the early stages they were running all over Barcelona.

The big moments

By now, you will have seen the goals on loop but there were three huge incidents that helped shape this tie. The first came in the 94th minute at Camp Nou. Liverpool had a corner and Klopp implored Alisson Becker, his goalkeeper, to take a risk and go up into the opposition area.

Becker, however, hesitated. He stayed on the halfway line and it was just as well as Barcelona broke forward and the three against one counterattack ended up with Ousmane Dembele shooting feebly at the Brazilian.

Would he have been in a position to make the save had he gone forward?

The second came at half-time on Tuesday. Robertson’s injury ensured he could not carry on and the switch saw Milner move to left-back, with Gini Wijnaldum bolstering the midfield. One change was necessary; a second at that point would have been a calamity.

Liverpool’s medical team, however, worked overtime on Jordan Henderson, whose knee had been damaged in a collision. He had a jab to numb the discomfort and some painkillers to go with intense treatment. Henderson had been outstanding and to lose his leadership would have been critical.

Then there was the fourth and final goal. Alexander-Arnold was praised for his ingenuity but an edict to the ball boys at Anfield to get the ball back as soon as possible – Liverpool’s technical staff had spotted Barcelona dawdling at set pieces – was key.

Oakley Cannonier, a 14-year-old from Liverpool’s Academy, hurried the ball to Alexander-Arnold.

The aftermath

The last time Klopp lined his team up in front of The Kop was after a 2-2 draw with West Brom in November 2015. He was mocked after that match (which Divock Origi salvaged in injury time) but there was no question of Liverpool being scored on this occasion.

They savoured the adulation at the final whistle and the scene inside the dressing room afterwards was of high emotion. Some were screaming and shouting, others were in tears with the emotion of it all. This was different to what they had to Roma 12 months ago; this was something remarkable.

But for all the noise, there was also clarity. Yes, it was a time to take stock and reflect on the pummelling of one of the greatest sides we have ever seen but there was also a realisation that nothing has been achieved yet.

The sight of Real Madrid’s players casually celebrating with the European Cup last May, after Liverpool had lost in Kiev, still rankles those who looked on from close quarters.

None of them want to end up losing again. This time, this story must end with Liverpool in first place. — Daily Mail

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