Liverpool 4-0 FC Barcelona: Winners and Losers as Liverpool complete historic comeback at Anfield
Liverpool qualified for a second consecutive Champions League final as Barcelona stuttered on their road to European glory yet again in a similar fashion to last year's shambolic showing at the Stadio Olimpico against AS Roma. Lionel Messi & Co. failed to live up to their promise made to a packed Camp Nou and a few millions sitting at home, and this defeat will live long in the hearts and minds of all Barcelona fans and players alike.
Jurgen Klopp was without two of his three star forwards, as Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah were not fit enough to be a part of the game and the German did not want to take a risk with the health of either of his superstars.
In the pre-game presser, he'd been cautiously optimistic over his side's chances against the Spanish champions, who'd played a mediocre game but went to Anfield with a slightly misleading 3-0 lead, as Messi magic powered a sub-par side to what seemed a certain spot in the final.
The German laughed when reporters pitched the idea of his side scoring 4 goals and not conceding at the same time. He said his side would give it their all, and urged the Anfield faithful to make Barcelona players aware that they've come to one of the, if not the most, daunting away stadiums to play in.
The home side fielded a depleted XI, as Shaqiri and Origi took place of Salah and Fimino and Jordan Henderson started in place of the injured Naby Keita, Milner for Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander Arnold came back in for Joe Gomez. Ernesto Valverde, who'd had the brilliant idea of giving most of his stars the weekend off fielded the same XI from the first leg as his side were certain of their place in the final before actually getting there.
The game started at a crisp pace and Liverpool piled a great deal of pressure on Barcelona, not letting them get arond their penalty area till after Origi had capitalised on a critical error from Ter Stegen, as the German parried Henderson's shot into a dangerous area, and Origi was there to give Liverpool the crucial goal, as he has so often this season. He scored in consecutive games for the first time since April 2017, more than 750 days, and his status at Anfield after tonight has never been higher.
Allison was forced into making a few smart saves, and he justified the massive outlay on him in the summer by keeping the visitors out, who didn't have their usual spark, passing languidly and making far too many errors, as the home side always seemed to be snapping into challenges and coming away with everything on the night.
With the introduction of Wijnaldum Liverpool seemed to find another gear, despite Andy Robertson, one of their key contributors in attack going off injured. The Dutchman scored 2 goals in 12 mins after coming on as the tie was levelled up in just 56 mins of football in Liverpool. Barcelona were made to toil for the entire game, and Divock Origi capitalised on yet another Barca error as TAA took a quick corner and caught the defense napping, and the Belgian striker was left with the simplest of tap ins to give Liverpool the goal they needed to go through.
After that, Virgil Van Dijk and Jordan Henderson organised their team in the most compact, counter attacking shape, soaking all the Barcelona pressure and trying to hit them on the break, and it almost worked as they tried to get a fifth. Liverpool were denied by some Gareth Bale heroics last year, but the onus is now on them to beat either Tottenham or Ajax to lift the Champions League trophy after more than a decade for the club.
Here are winners and losers from tonight's gigantic comeback
Winner - Liverpool Bench
Liverpool are a great side. That's not anybody's opinion at this point, that's just a fact. And it has been one for most of Jurgen Klopp's time at Anfield, as time and time again, he and his team have shown they are capable of anything on their day. But tonight was a different story, as tonight the odds were stacked against Klopp and his men as they never have been before. They had to defeat the mighty Barcelona by four goals and keep out the one of the greatest players of all time whilst doing so. And they had to do that without 2 of their 3 star forwards.
I personally did not think they have a chance, but tuned in just to see how Messi and his troops fare at Anfield. To think, if you'd have said a year ago that Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri will be making crucial contributions in a Champions League Semi final tie, you'd have been laughed out of the room as if you were a flat-earther. Crazy world, crazy game.