Mo Salah? No problem - Liverpool defy the odds and brush aside Barca

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Istanbul Mark II

They had it all to do, the Reds. Trailing Barcelona 3-0 following the first leg last Wednesday. The mighty Barcelona. Five-time UEFA Champions League champions Barcelona. A Barcelona team who had just weeks ago won La Liga for the second consecutive time with still four games left to play, currently 15 points ahead of Real Madrid. A Barcelona side which contained a certain Lionel Messi.

To make things even more challenging, they had to somehow overcome the Catalans without their two star players - Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, who combined have scored eight goals in the Champions League this term. Bit-part player Divock Origi was the man trusted with leading the line at Anfield, and while many fans would have dreaded the prospect of heading into battle against one of Europe's most ruthless teams with the Belgian as their main attacking outlet, it took just seven minutes for him to gain the Kop's trust.

Jordan Henderson's weak shot did just about enough to test Ter Stegan, the German could only keep it out by palming it to the feet of Origi who was then able to tap home from close range. 1-0 Liverpool, 83 minutes left to play, game on. Barcelona are rattled, it's evident. They don't want it and Liverpool can sense it, Klopp's warriors can literally smell the fear coming off the florescent yellow shirts of the Spanish champions who are usually so calm under pressure. Anfield can smell it, too. Over 50,000 fans yet again play their part as the twelfth man, ushering their beloved side toward goal whilst making the atmosphere as hostile as it could possibly be for their nerve-stricken guests.

Messi showed flashes of brilliance, as he always does. The Argentinian would have felt let down by his colleagues last night, every ball he played through wasn't given the finish it deserved, but that's football. For the most part, despite bursts of sporadic threat, Lionel Messi was kept quiet by the high pressing Liverpool backline and ravenous Fabinho, who would have left the pitch with absolutely nothing left in the tank. The Brazilian's performance last night was outstanding and a perfect example of what exactly is needed when tasked with man marking the worlds deadliest footballer.

Origi
It took seven minutes for last night's game to come alive.

The flying dutchman arrived just in time

It's half-time and the score still stands at 1-0. Origi's early goal is enough to separate the two sides but it isn't enough to see Liverpool through to the final in three weeks time; it's not even close, in fact. Three more goals have to be scored, without return, in the forthcoming 45 minutes of football.

It looks unlikely, but there's a chance, there's always a chance. Klopp's half-time talk would have referenced Istanbul, there's no doubt about that; not one player remains from that fateful evening fourteen years ago, Trent Alexander-Arnold would have been six years old when all that happened, he wouldn't have had a clue what was going on, playing with his Lego and Hot Wheels toy cars. Now he's on the pitch, marking Philippe Coutinho out of the game, part of a team looking to replicate the club's biggest ever European achievement, this time on home soil.

The Red men emerge from the tunnel, hearts firmly on their sleeves, they're ready. Barcelona still don't want it, not one bit and it's clear to see. Though they're still Barcelona, right? Surely they'll nick a goal and effectively put the tie to bed. Surely they won't concede three goals in 45 minutes.

There was an arrogance about the Catalans last night, it was like when a team play a side three divisions lower than them in the cup, turn up and expect to turn them over without breaking sweat. This particular team aren't here to just fulfil the fixture list, though, they're here to cause a storm and have more heart and pride pulsating through their bloodstream than any side that the team from three divisions higher have ever faced before.

Trent
Trent would have been six when Istanbul happened, last night he helped recreate it.

Georginio Wijnaldum has now been introduced, by the way, and he's transformed into the best player in the world. The Dutch midfielder replaced the injured left-back Andy Robertson, Mr. Versatile himself - James Milner - once again does his bit for the team and moves to the left side of defence. It's not his usual position, sure, but this is James Milner, the guy who never complains about anything and does exactly what is asked of him with a smile on his face, like a loyal Golden Retriever just happy to do his bit.

He's fucking good, too, just at football in general, so much so that it doesn't matter where on the pitch he is playing. Question marks over the 33-year-old's future at Anfield remain, he's not the spritely young footballer he once was, but after last night it's abundantly clear to see just how much he still has to give and hard to imagine him not being offered a one-year extension in summer.

Back to Wijnaldum, though, and it's taken the handsome bastard just eight minutes to stamp his authority on the game, once again capitalising on the quick-thinking and precise delivery of Liverpool's marauding right-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold. The youngster dispossesses Jordi Alba and carries the ball toward the byline, where he then wraps that trusty right foot around it: low, hard, accurately at the oncoming steam train that is Wijnaldum, the flying Dutchman says thanks by caressing it underneath an out-of-sorts Ter Stegan, who can do nothing but collapse in a heap of dismay. Not once did Liverpool celebrate, they're too focused and know that there's still so much to do. Two goals are required, Anfield starts to dream.

This game is madness

Barcelona are rumbled, they're shitting themselves, it's so clear to see. The Kop have gotten the better of them, the high press of eleven red kits constantly under their noses have, too. But they still need to score only once to ensure qualification to the final remains. Liverpool still have a huge job on their hands, they need two goals to win, but just one to see extra-time introduced.

Klopp's on the sideline, doing what he does, limbs everywhere, it's hard to work out what he could possibly be trying to tell his players with that Tony Adams-esque manoeuvre. Looks like a rogue uncle dancing at a wedding, the one you haven't seen in years, always stinks of fags and slightly of Carlsberg, always tells you never to get married but did it three times himself and it absolutely ruined him. Unlike uncle Dave, though, Klopp isn't dancing, he's sending constant messages to his players and though it may look like a jumbled mess, it worked.

Just two minutes later and Liverpool have another one. What is happening! This time, it's a well worked move on the opposing flank, Milner feeds Xherdan Shaqiri, who's decided to take a break from presenting his team-mates with a string of short, shite hospital passes. The Swiss international whips in a perfect cross, straight onto the head of, Wijnaldum? Again? Seriously, what is happening here. It's 3-0, Anfield's alight with chants of You'll Never Walk Alone and the tie is somehow heading to extra-time.

Oh, Gini.
Oh, Gini.

Liverpool aren't content with a draw however, they want this settled in normal time. The ravenous high press continues to cause Barcelona problems, as does the constant flow of corners. Trent's right foot is frightening, he's something special, this lad. The whip he gets on the ball is devastating, and partnered with his quick-thinking, it's what makes him arguably the best right-back in the world on current form. Nobody foresaw what was to come next.

Barcelona, words fail me. It's the semi-final of the Champions League and one goal knocks you out of the competition after leading the first leg 3-0. You're already heavily on the back foot, the slightest drop in concentration is going to cost you here, massively. What do they do? Ignore rule one of football, the rule you're taught from the age of 10: do not switch off from set pieces.

Backs are turned, Ter Stegan is, for some reason, clapping. Trent's looking lively though, of course he is, he hears the ref's whistle and sees Origi stood in front of the goal unmarked. Trent whips it in and Origi plugs in and does something no Barcelona player dreamt of doing last night, switched on.

He flicks the pacy ball goal-wards and it curls into the top corner of the net. What have I just witnessed, absurd defending but such clever play from a young man who demonstrated such maturity on the biggest stage possible, alongside such a cool, satisfying finish from the most unlikely suspect.

They've done it. Somehow

The score is now 4-0. Four nil. The one scoreline Liverpool had to obtain prior to kick off, the scoreline that was priced at 50/1 with bookmakers up and down the country. The Reds defended just as well as they attacked last night, Barca had their moments, but were so so poor in front of goal and uncharacteristically wasteful in possession.

Messi, as always, had his chances, but to no avail. Why? Liverpool wanted this so much more. It was like they were taking out their frustrations on the whole City/Premier League debacle by beating the living shit out of the next team they faced, whoever it was. It just so happened to be one of the best teams in the world, which made it all the more impressive.

Say what you like about Liverpool, but last night was special. So, so special and they proved just why the Premier League is head and shoulders above any league on this earth. It looks as though they'll miss out on the league this time around, and maybe they've now accepted that. Last week they were still firmly in the race, they would have still had one eye on the Newcastle match, maybe because of that nerves got the better of them and they capitulated under the pressure. Not this time, though.

After City's dramatic win over Leicester on Monday, where Vincent Kompany did something he'll never do again to win the match, maybe the Reds have finally come to terms with the fact that their best just isn't going to be enough in this exhilarating title race. Their minds were on the Champions League last night, nothing else, and it showed.

Liverpool are now favourites to win the competition at the start of June after being 25/1 to win it just 24 hours ago and if they put in another performance half as good as that one last night, it is difficult to imagine any one of Tottenham or Ajax causing them too many problems in Madrid. They may not win the league, but you cannot argue that Klopp is getting the very best out of this incredibly talented side who, quite frankly, deserve silverware this time out.

Football. Fucking great, isn't it?

salah
It's a funny old game.
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