Quarantine flashback: Remembering Liverpool’s emphatic 4-3 comeback win at Anfield over Dortmund in the Europa League 2015-16
- Here's a detailed look-back at a wonder game from the past.
- The retelling is mixed with commentary only possible with the privilege of hindsight.
Fifteen days without football can surely feel as long as a lifetime, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Even in our wildest imagination, we could not have dreamt of what's happening right now in our world. There's no denying the fact that the steps taken to fight the coronavirus pandemic are of utmost importance but that isn't to say that weekends without League football or weekdays without Champions League aren't colorless.
Football's history is glorious, filled with raw emotions, athletic brilliance and miraculous achievements. With no clue about when the game will resume again, the only way to experience the thrill of the sport is by delving into its rich legacy and revisiting matches.
Knowing the results certainly decreases the excitement factor of the match but there are other fascinating aspects that the power of hindsight brings with it. A considerable distance from the game provides a lens of objectivity for the viewer. Moreover, in these times of zero action, the happiness of watching a fine game of football also rushes back in.
I recently revisited the exhilarating 4-3 comeback of Liverpool against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals of UEFA Europa League 2015-16 at Anfield and here's my take on it.
A game to cherish
Coming into the second leg, the aggregate stood at 1-1. Liverpool had the cushion of an away goal but Dortmund were the better side on paper at that point of time. Thomas Tuchel, the then Dortmund manager, had rested his important players on the weekend against their city rivals, Schalke 04 despite the fact that they were in a neck-to-neck title race with Bayern Munich. He gave precedence to this tie and his side would have felt that they had an equal, if not a better, chance of winning the tie regardless of having to play in front of an intimidating Anfield crowd.
It was a dream start for Dortmund. They were quick off the starting blocks and were two goals up by the 9th minute.
The first goal was from a rapid-fire counter-attack that originated from a misunderstanding between Philippe Coutinho and Alberto Moreno. As soon as Dortmund got the ball, it was swiftly moved up the field. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's shot from point-blank range was outstandingly saved by Simon Mignolet but Henrikh Mkhitaryan coolly finished off the rebound.
In the second goal, Jurgen Klopp's team received a dose of its own medicine. Liverpool adhered to his system of gegenpressing, wherein the team pressed as a collective whole not just to regain possession but to regain it in attacking areas which would, in turn, lead to the creation of chances. However, Dortmund was the place where Klopp perfected this system. Tuchel had made some twitches to their gameplay but still both the teams had a similar style. Typical of this system, Marco Reus, an attacker, dropped back and snatched the ball from his own half and then played an insightful pass for Aubameyang that ripped open Liverpool's defenses. Aubameyang, clinically, did the rest.
The lethal trio of Reus, Mkhitaryan, and Aubameyang, who would end the season with 23, 23 and 39 goals respectively, had made a big impact on the game in only the first 10 minutes.
Liverpool needed to score 3 goals now without conceding any. The game could very well have been over here, but for the Reds resolve to fight on. Recently in the Premier League, they had defeated Norwich City 5-4 at Carrow Road with Adam Lallana's winner coming deep in injury time. This victory would have definitely inspired the Reds to push on.
Gradually, Liverpool started stamping their authority and attacking prowess on the game. Multiple chances coming from slick moves popped up but none was converted. Divock Origi, in attack and Emre Can, in the midfield were the two players who especially stood out.
The demands of the game forced Liverpool to make the game very open. They committed men forward and this gave Dortmund numerous chances to counter. Hence, the low ball possession wasn't a major issue for them. In the first half, their defense, led by their captain Mats Hummels, was quite organized. On the other hand, they created a few good chances on the counter that required last-ditch tackles or high-quality saves from the goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet. At half-time, the scoreline remained 0-2.
The second half began just the way Liverpool would have wished. From Can's well measured through ball, Origi opened the account for the Reds like he would go on to do on that night in Anfield against FC Barcelona in the semifinals of UEFA Champions League in 2018-19. He might not be in the list of highest scoring strikers in Liverpool's rich history but he would definitely go down as a cult hero for scoring some of the most iconic goals in the club's recent history.
Dortmund stepped up the ante and responded robustly after conceding. They tried to take the game back to Liverpool and it was their captain, the center-back, Hummels, who threaded the needle and carved open Liverpool's backline for Marco Reus to finesse the ball into a despairing Mignolet's goal. It was Reus' 5th goal of the competition.
Anfield was stunned. Again, to qualify, the Reds needed to score three goals without conceding. Surely not many would have believed that this was possible but Jurgen Klopp and his men were among those who dared to believe.
Joe Allen's arrival freshened things up and Liverpool again started to gain momentum while attacking. It was Coutinho's trademark strike from the 'Coutinho range' that rattled Weidenfeller's goal in the 66th minute.
Now, Dortmund were pushed into their shell. Unlike after conceding the first goal, Die Borussen weren't allowed to retaliate. Liverpool continued to pile on the pressure and Mamadou Sakho finally equalized from a corner in the 77th minute. It was only his second-ever goal in a Liverpool shirt.
For the remainder of the game, Dortmund were only looking to defend. The quality of Liverpool's final ball dipped after the equalizer. The game became a bit clumsy with no team showing any signs of offensive rhythm.
The chants of "You'll Never Walk Alone" were reverberating around Anfield during the 89th minute. Qualify or not, the Kop was proud of their team's performance. Little did they know that they were in for an unforgettable moment in the 91st minute. Instead of crossing the ball from the set-piece into the box, Milner innovatively played it into the empty right flank for Daniel Sturridge, who waited for Milner's run and found him with a nutmeg pass. From the byline, Milner crossed the ball into a dangerous area and Dejan Lovren headed the ball into Weidenfeller's goal. The whole of Anfield erupted like a volcano. The miraculous comeback was complete!
Liverpool would go on to lose the final against Sevilla FC but this comeback would have been immense to them becoming the 'mentality monsters' that they are now regarded as. These little steps have come a long way in making Klopp's Liverpool one of the best clubs in Europe. While Dortmund's journey since this game has been a bit shaky, they went through a transition phase and came back stronger. They even challenged Bayern Munich for the title last year, faltering just at the last moment. However, one might say that Liverpool have reached if not surpassed their potential whereas Dortmund have come agonizingly close to reaching theirs but something has still been missing.
If you're an absolute football buff and miss football dearly then wash your hands, lock yourself in a room, dive into this beautiful game's history and enjoy the magic.Published 25 Mar 2020, 22:44 IST