This is going to be a tricky one. As a writer and a fan, I pride myself on being able to take a step back from events on the pitch in order to soberly analyse them. Needless to say, a breathless 4-0 win when a 4-0 win was precisely what was needed against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona is not the kind of stuff that makes taking a step back easy.
Nevertheless, like Jürgen Klopp’s spectacular Reds, we will do our best. Hopefully, a little forgiveness can be found for when we inevitably slide into all caps shouting about THESE FUCKING LADS! So. Onwards...
Winners and Losers
Jürgen Klopp. Every single player in Red covered themselves head to toe in glory tonight. Not a challenge was shirked away from, not an opportunity missed. Alisson made the saves and then some. Trent Alexander-Arnold notched his 14th and 15th assist of the season in a display of maturity that is seldom seen. Joël Matip was more aggressive in the challenge than usual. Jordan Henderson was everywhere. Sadio Mané was a one-man offensive hub. Divock Origi persisted in his ability to find crucial goals. Georginio Wijnaldum did all the Gini things and attacked the box like it was 2015. Even a rusty and off-the-pace Xherdan Shaqiri managed to swing in a perfect cross for the third goal.
Credit goes to these players, of course, but all of it seems to be made possible by one man; Jürgen Norbert Klopp. In three European campaigns, the German has taken Liverpool to three finals. Striking a perfect balance between matey madman, inspirational figurehead, and tactical savant, Klopp personifies the values of the club, and helps instill them in all of his players. The best signing of the FSG era, bar none.
The Anfield Crowd. HOLY SHIT what a spectacle that was. The noise, whether rapturous applause at a challenge, ruthless booing of any man deigning to take the game to the Reds, or just incessant chanting and singing for the full 90 minutes — plus full-throated renditions of YNWA bookending the match itself — the Kop showed up, big time, as did the rest of fans in the stadium. Anfield remains a trump card for the Reds, and on nights like this, they show why the prospect of coming there wearing anything but Liverpool red should put a pit in the stomach of any footballer.
Cüneyt Çakır. The Turkish referee can thank his lucky stars Liverpool came out the winners here. Typically a steady presence with his whistle, on this night the 42-year old wilted under the pressure, failing to call two clear penalties in favour of the home side and consistently whistling 50-50 duels against the Reds. Had Liverpool gone out with a 2-0 or 3-0 win, the match official would have been in for a shellacking.
The Former Reds. Philippe Coutinho missed a good chance in the first half and did little else before he was hauled off the pitch in the 59th minute, having produced 1 shot, zero key passes, and zero successful dribbles. The Brazilian’s transfer fee single-handedly paid for Liverpool’s investment in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, and although his machinations to force a move stung fans at the time, this seems as clear-cut a case of the last laugh belonging to the Reds.
Luis Suarez, a former hero at Anfield, produced exactly the same amount of offense as the other former red, and where his drive and passion to win was often a boon in the past — and, arguably, the main reason his career went where it did — it appears to have been largely overtaken by spiteful hostility and an ever-increasing devotion to the dark arts over the beautiful game. At 32, the Uruguayan’s career seems to be winding down, and judging by the performance he put in tonight, it should be.
Credit To The Visitors
Nah, fam. Barca tested Alisson on a few occasions in the first half — and when they did the Brazilian showed why he’s been worth every penny of the €72.5m transfer fee the Reds paid Roma last summer — but the blaugranes were clearly rattled, not only by the intensity of resistance they faced on the pitch but the cauldron of red noise they found themselves in.
After Liverpool went 3-0 up and tied the aggregate, the visitors managed only two shots, one of which was a direct free kick from 25-odd yards, over 40 minutes. It was a quite sorry second-half display from the La Liga champions, one unworthy of the club’s history and one that rightfully sees them out of this edition of the Champions League.
What Happens Next
Before WE’RE GOING TO MADRID, Liverpool have one last round of Premier League football to get through. Sitting a point behind Manchester City in a historically impressive title race, realistically the Reds have little hope of being crowned champions in the end with their title rivals facing off with a hapless Brighton side with nothing to play for.
Nonetheless, knowing this team, they will go out against Wolverhampton on Sunday and look to do their job, chips fall where they may on the South coast. Regardless what happens at the weekend, there will then be three weeks of recovery and prepare before Klopp takes his men to Spain to face off against either Ajax or Tottenham in the Reds’ second straight Champions League final appearance. A spectacular end to a spectacular season for a spectacular team. Get ready.
WE’VE CONQUERED ALL OF EUROOOPE!!