Liverpool 4, Mané 15', Mascherano 47' (OG), Origi 48', Grujic 90+2'
Jürgen Klopp trotted out a 4-3-3 and Liverpool attacked early and often to start the match. The team was shorn of Daniel Sturridge after the striker suffered a muscle injury in training, and Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, and Philipe Coutinho were started in the front three. Georginio Wijnaldum, Emre Can, and Adam Lallana rounded out the midfield. James Milner started in place of Alberto Moreno in the back four, which was otherwise as expected.
The Reds started brightly. Pressing as a team and creating chances off changes of possession. Once in the box, however, the inability to find a final ball meant Liverpool remained blunt: all too familiar to fans the globe over. Then, it worked: Lallana stole a lazy ball from Turan about ten yards into Liverpool's half, drove forward like a bat out of hell, then laid it off to Firmino a few yards in from the corner of the eighteen. Barcelona had three men back. Firmino took a half Cruyff and squared it to Lallana, who was arriving in the box. Lallana took a touch, then nutmegged his defender with a deft pass to the onrushing Mané who took one touch then slammed it home over Ter Stegen's left hand. One to the Reds; none to Barcelona.
Liverpool were playing with swagger. Let me repeat that: Liverpool were playing with swagger. In defense, Barcelona's admittedly devastating front created a few chances of note including a Messi strike off the right post after a typically neat ball through the middle of the box and including a comical scramble in the thirty-fifth minute after Messi torched Milner and squared it to Luis at the penalty spot; Lovren made a beautiful sliding challenge that brought down Luis while also getting the ball; Luis being Luis, he nearly popped up and put it in, but Migs saved the effort and Clyne punted the ball away from danger.
Liverpool, to their credit, also were creating opportunities. Coutinho managed to get himself through after some physical work on the left wing but managed to put his chance - a usual cut inside to his right foot but about ten yards out - over the bar. Firmino also should have done better after receiving the ball from Coutinho about ten yards out from goal but could only gift possession back to Barca.
After 35 minutes Barcelona started to exert more pressure. Keeping Liverpool in their own half for the most part. On 40 minutes, Mignolet made a fantastic save at his near post after Suarez was played through. Barca had few chances of note thereafter, and in news that hopefully is not new, Milner came off for Moreno five minutes before half. Klavan continued to look terrifically competent.
Up one-nil and looking pretty good, The Reds brought on Jordan Henderson, Divock Origi, and Kevin Stewart in place of Coutinho, Can, and Lallana. And Liverpool started on the front foot: scoring not two minutes in after Mané burst down the right wing, played it to Origi, who chose a slick back-heel flick into space, which Mané ran onto and played inside the six to be bundled home by Henderson / Mascherano.
Then Origi showed why many Reds believe he should be the tip of the spear. The ball was at Barcelona's left back's feet. He played it into Busquets who looked over his shoulder before receiving the ball fifteen yards before the half field line; his view was such that he saw Kevin Stewart at the half field line when the ball was played. The ball was played with proper pace, but Stewart, showing an excellent ability to read the game, was hoping for that ball and immediately sprinted at Busquets the moment the ball went his way.
With his back to Stewart and unaware of the onrushing midfielder, Busquets took a touch towards the right, nearest touchline. Stewart was already there, though, and cut the ball out to play Origi in with a one touch ball behind the defense 25 yards from goal. Four touches later the ball was in the back of the net at the near post. One of those touches took him inside his defender and exhibited such a perfect awareness that one might be forgiven for praising deities. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 2016/17.
Barca were at sixes and sevens. Not three minutes later Firmino was twice through on goal but managed to to fail to latch onto Origi's squared ball across the six on his first chance and slot wide after being played through on goal on his second. The latter miss was particularly Benteke.
Kevin Stewart acquitted himself well, cutting out Barcelona's attacks and doing the things defensive midfielders do. Mignolet had very, very little work to do, if any, in the second half, with Lovren making a number of wonderful blocks and cutting out of dangerous passes. Liverpool were organized and dangerous.
Mané continued to look bright, in one particular instance around the 70th minute he absolutely worked the entirety of Barca's defense before slotting wide of the far post. He was subbed for Markovic a minute later, and Luis and Messi were pulled a few minutes after that. Near concurrently, Danny Ings came on for Firmino and Grujic for Wijnaldum.
Liverpool showed strength attacking down the right for the rest of the match, and Barcelona did little to trouble our defense. In a fashion that surely will please Reds everywhere, for once Liverpool were making another team look blunt in attack as we cut out final ball after final ball. In perhaps related news, Klavan continued to look terrifically confident and Lovren was being vocal and commanding, commanding and vocal.
The game looked to be petering out, but Liverpool had a send-off for the near 90,000-strong crowd. Two minutes into stoppage time Henderson did the dirty work, slide tackling a loose ball in the direction of Origi, who drove towards three defenders as if he were apex Luis Suarez. A slide tackle about twenty yards out dispossessed Origi on the right side of the eighteen Marko was lurking, however, because this is a Liverpool that get men forward. He dinked it to the opposite side of the box to an onrushing Grujic who placed a looping, absolutely inch-perfect header inside the far post. A sumptuous goal to cap a fun win.