Anfield witnessed a comeback for the ages on Tuesday, as Liverpool overturned a three-goal deficit to oust Barcelona on their way to the Champions League final.
The odds were firmly stacked against Liverpool after their 3-0 first leg defeat and with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita ruled out, they had a mountain to climb at Anfield on Tuesday night. Spurred by the vociferous home support, they made a brilliant start with Divock Origi slotting home a rebound in the 7th minute, after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had saved Jordan Henderson’s effort.
Liverpool pressed and harried the Barcelona players, who looked dumbstruck by their opponents’ intensity. But, Lionel Messi did manage to threaten the Reds’ goal, only to be denied by Alisson, while Philippe Coutinho was also thwarted by the Brazilian. At the other end, Andrew Robertson drew a save from ter Stegen, while Alisson made a great save to keep Jordi Alba out on the verge of half-time.
Liverpool started the stronger side after the break as well, with Virgil van Dijk’s back-heeled effort being saved by the Barcelona keeper. Luis Suarez had a chance to level things up for the visitors, but could only muster up a tame effort that was no problem for Allison to deal with. The miss came to bite Barcelona back as Georginio Wijnaldum made it 2-0, drilling home a deflected Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.
WHAT A SPECIAL NIGHT!!! WE'RE GOING TO THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL!! https://t.co/p9JxS3cfZS
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 7, 2019
The Dutchman then sent Anfield into raptures two minutes later, heading in from a sumptuous cross by Xherdan Shaqiri to level the aggregate score. Barcelona looked shell-shocked and could not muster up a response, apart from a Messi shot from a tight angle that was saved. The turnaround was complete in the 79th minute, as Origi slammed home from a clever corner by Alexander-Arnold to make it 4-0.
It was a stirring display from Liverpool without two of their key players in Salah and Firmino, which made it even more impressive. They are now in the Champions League final for the second consecutive season and here’s how we rated the performances of the Reds’ stars on a memorable night at Anfield.
Alisson Becker: 9/10
Came up clutch when his team needed him as he ensured that Barcelona did not get the crucial away goal. Denied Messi with a superb reflex save early on, before keeping out Coutinho on his return to Anfield. Charged out and saved Alba’s effort close to half-time, before pulling off two more impressive stops against Suarez and Messi after the break. Exceptional performance.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 10/10
Having been left out of the lineup for the first leg, the 20-year-old had a point to prove and he put in arguably one of his finest performances in Liverpool colours. Had his task cut out defensively against Coutinho and Alba and he defended resolutely, but it was his attacking output that stood out most on the night.
Robbed the ball off Alba and fired in the cross leading to the second goal, before his quick-thinking and accurate cross found Origi for the all-important fourth. Had the most touches by a Liverpool player and made the most number of passes and crosses, highlighting his influence on the game. Brilliant. And he is just 20 years old.
Joel Matip: 9/10
A colossal display at the heart of the defence from the Cameroonian. Was calmness and composure personified on the field as he dealt with the antics of Suarez with little fuss all night long. Made a key intervention to stop Messi in the first period and oozed confidence each time he carried the ball out from the back and sprayed forward.
Virgil van Dijk: 9/10
After a forgetful display in the first leg, Liverpool needed their defensive leader to step up in a big way and van Dijk did just that on Tuesday. Organised the backline brilliantly throughout the game and was always present at the right place at the right time to thwart the Catalans.
Unbeatable in the air, strong on the ground, solid in his distribution, the Dutchman almost scored a goal in the second half as well. What an inspired signing he has proven to be for the Reds.
Andrew Robertson: 8/10
A livewire down the left side as he constantly got into dangerous positions with his forward forays. Forced ter Stegen into a fine save and had another shot blocked by Arturo Vidal. Defensively was solid as well, making a number of important blocks and interceptions, but had to come off at half-time after being at the receiving end of a rough challenge from Suarez.
Jordan Henderson: 9/10
The Liverpool captain personified the entire team’s attitude on the night as he made a strong and aggressive start to the game. Was a powerful presence driving forward from the middle of the park and did brilliantly to force a save from ter Stegen, leading up to Origi’s opener.
Shook off a nasty-looking knee injury and continued to soldier on with same energy and intensity throughout the game. A captain’s display.
Booked early in the game for a challenge on Suarez, the Brazilian was walking a tightrope all game but kept his head and put in a disciplined and commanding display in the centre of the park. Was always present to thwart any opportunities on the counter for Barcelona and seemed to have gotten under the skin of Messi with his tough tackling nature and high intensity pressing.
James Milner: 8.5/10
The veteran midfielder was relentless in his pressing as he constantly went about pressurizing the Barcelona players, while he drove his team forward when on the ball. Moved to left-back after the break and continued his solid work with the same purpose and energy, although he did not offer much on the overlap while his passing was a bit off at times. Won back possession the most times on the night.
Xherdan Shaqiri: 7/10
Starting his first match since January, in the absence of Salah, the Switzerland international was quite sloppy in the first half as he gave away possession in dangerous areas on a couple of occasions, which almost cost Liverpool. Much-improved after the break and put in a sublime cross for Wijnaldum to head in the third goal.
Sadio Mane: 8/10
The Senegalese speedster may not have been involved directly in goal, but ran the Barcelona defence ragged with his pace and movement on Tuesday night. Showed great anticipation to pounce on Alba’s error in the build-up to the first goal and should have won a penalty soon after. Put in a shift defensively as well in what was a tremendous display.
Divock Origi: 9/10
Opened the scoring with the simplest of the finishes that set the tone for Liverpool on the night. Held the ball up well, was sharp in his movement and then scored arguably the most important goal of his Liverpool career in the second period with an expert finish.
After his heroics against Newcastle United at the weekend in the Premier League, the Belgian international was once again the star for Liverpool on another hugely important night. And to think that he would not have even featured if Firmino was fit.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 9/10
Replaced the injured Robertson at half-time and was the chief instigator of Liverpool’s comeback with a rousing second half performance. Great run into the box and a powerful strike for the second goal, while his header for the third was fantastic as well. Added energy and physical presence to the Reds’ midfield and made a match-winning contribution.
Joe Gomez: N/A
Replaced Origi in the 85th minute.
Daniel Sturridge: N/A
On for Shaqiri in stoppage time.