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Liverpool 4, Dortmund 3 (5-4 agg): Reds Complete Stunning Comeback

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A last gasp goal from Dejan Lovren sends Liverpool through to the next round.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool 4: Origi 48', Coutinho 66', Sakho 78', Lovren 90+1
Dortmund 3: Mkhitaryan 5', Aubameyang 9', Reus 57'

When the final whistle sounded and the men in yellow collapsed, heads in hands, and Liverpool players streamed out onto the pitch, one image stuck out in the delirium: Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren embracing at midfield, exhausted faces almost touching.

After being cast off and criticized at various points over the past couple of years, the two defenders were able to bask in unrestrained happiness, the fans roaring because of their impact on a historic night. Sakho and Lovren were responsible for the two late goals that capped the greatest Liverpool comeback since Istanbul.

Just after their embrace, the singing of "You'll Never Walk Alone" reached its climax. TV cameras panned across the crowd to show club legends -- Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Roy Hodgson -- in full voice, smiling at the absurdity of the three goals the Reds scored in the final 25 minutes of the match to overturn a 3-1 aggregate deficit.

But before the magic and the singing, there was an utter disaster of an opening 10 minutes that saw Borussia Dortmund score twice. Poor giveaways, a nonexistent midfield and lackluster defensive positioning were the primary factors for the early hole Liverpool found themselves in.

First, Alberto Moreno, who had ventured forward down the wing, gave the ball away cheaply, setting off an attack that was finished off by Henrikh Mkhitaryan on a rebound. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled the trouble with a near post finish, which also came on the counter. He was set up by Marco Reus, who had dribbled through Liverpool's entire midfield and played a through ball that evaded a backtracking Sakho.

Suddenly Dortmund had the away goal advantage and the aggregate lead, and things looked bleak. A blowout loss seemed on the cards. But a neat finish from Divock Origi on the flip side of halftime turned the momentum, even though Liverpool had wasted numerous chances before that.

Still, defensive frailty and the over-extension of the James Milner and Emre Can double pivot as Liverpool poured forward were causes for concern. When Reus broke free to curl a shot past Simon Mignolet, seemingly putting the Reds away, it wasn't much of a surprise.

What was stunning was the way Liverpool responded, feeding off a loud Anfield crowd to score one, two and then finally three goals to advance to the Europa League semi-finals.

The first -- a give-and-go play between Milner and Philippe Coutinho -- appeared to be a consolation strike, as Liverpool still needed a pair of finishes against one of Europe's better sides in the final 20 minutes to advance. When Sakho nodded in another, tying the score on aggregate with 13 minutes and change left to go, belief began to build.

And already into added time, Milner floated a ball across the face of the goal and Lovren rose to head it in. Madness.

Tomorrow, after the semi-final draw takes place, Liverpool must refocus on making their historic comeback matter by winning the competition. But for now, it's time to celebrate.