Reds: Origi 7’, 79’, Wijnaldum 54’, 56’
Our vaunted depth that has allowed legitimate, game-changing options off the bench all season has all but evaporated with the key injuries to Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Naby Keita. Instead we have the likes of Ben Woodburn and Rhian Brewster on the bench in a Champions League semifinal. That’s almost as daunting to think about as the mountain of a deficit Liverpool will need to overcome.
Liverpool start quickly, and seem intent to give it go, even if our strike force isn’t quite as sharp as we’d like it to be. What was I just saying? It’s a Divock Origi goal! A quick start was going to be necessary in order to make a proper go of it, and we got it! Sadio Mane latches on to a poor back pass, and lays it off to Jordan Henderson. The captain’s shot is weak, but forces a save, and Ter Stegan can only push it into the path of Origi, who slots the sitter. Moments later, controversy, as Mane is 100% taken down in the box. It’s about as stone-cold of a penalty as you’ll see. This is the kind of thing that VAR should help, but—shock!—Barcelona get the call. The Reds could have easily been up 2-0 in the first ten minutes, and this match would suddenly become a lot more interesting.
The visitors have had their chances as well, and Alisson has come up big a couple of times already, including a Philippe Coutinho shot (from INSIDE the box!) that seemed destined for the far corner before his intervention. After Liverpool’s fast start, Barcelona have done well to take the air out of the game, mostly with total shithousery, including Suarez winning a free kick by throwing himself at Virgil van Dijk’s back (and then throwing himself on the ground).
A scary moment, as it looks as if Hendo did his knee. It was serious enough for Georginio Wijnaldum to start kitting up, but the captain shook it off and played on.
This fucking ref. Mane hauled down again, this time by the last man, and the ref waves play on. Holy fucking shit. Suarez just kicked out at Robertson, the shithouse. If VAR was a thing (wait? wasn’t it a thing?) we should have had a pen and a red on Suarez. But no, UEFA doesn’t have a pro-Barcelona bias.
It was an excellent first half by the Reds, and with a less biased ref, we’d probably be up a man AND two goals. It’s hard enough beating the team with the World’s Best Player™, but the refereeing decisions the last two matches have certainly hurt our cause. If the match ends like this, Liverpool can hold their heads up high, knowing they deserved much more.
Kloppo makes a rare half-time sub, bringing on Gini Wijnaldum for Andy Robertson. Robbo has been great, so hopefully this is tactical and not because of injury. A Liverpool corner routine nearly adds another, were it not for a goal line clearance by Ter Stegen (and a hefty hold on Van Dijk, uncalled, of course). GOAL!! OH! IT’S ON! Trent Alexander-Arnold wins the ball back after a mistake, and plays a fantastic cross into Gini, who slots it with a powerful shot, squeezing it past the keeper.
GOAL!!! HOLY FUCKING SHIT! Moments, Xherdan Shaqiri, who has been mostly quiet so far, picks out Wijnaldum AGAIN, this time for the Dutchman to nod home with a perfect header. I LOVE THIS FUCKING TEAM. Liverpool are swarming the, and Barcelona just cannot deal right now. They respond by sending Coutinho to the bench. Unlucky.
Because we didn’t learn our lesson from last time, we gave another free kick away to Messi in a very dangerous spot, but this time he cannot bend it up and over the wall, and we can breathe a little easier (at least after the two ensuing corners).
Things have gotten really tense on both sides after that Gini Wijnaldum flurry of goals. Now Liverpool have something to lose and—more importantly—something to win.
GOAL!!!! I’m speechless. TAA does well to win a corner, and smartly takes it quickly to pick out a wide open Origi in front of goal, and Liverpool are miraculously in the lead with 12 minutes plus stoppage time to go. The longest 12 minutes of our life, I’d imagine.
A worry as Origi goes down, seemingly without contact. He comes off, replaced by Joe Gomez.
This is torture. I think time is actually standing still.
Daniel Sturridge comes on for Shaqiri. Come on Danny, help us see this one out.
Five minutes stoppage time. Come on, Liverpool.
Oh my god. The magic of Anfield on European Nights never fails to amaze me. They climbed a seemingly impossible hill to climb, and did it without their biggest goal scoring threats available. What a night. What a team. Klopp and the players gather in front of the Kop as You’ll Never Walk Alone rings out. The season isn’t over. At the very least, a final in Madrid awaits. Up the fucking Reds.