“I cannot explain what took place, because that would imply there were logical or tactical reasons behind the result, and I don’t think any of that happened,”
This reaction from Borussia Dortmund’s coach, Thomas Tuchel, at the end of a pulsating and thrilling encounter pretty much sums up an insane game of football played last night in the Europa League quarter-final between Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund.
Prior to the game, the German team had been talking about attack, attack and more attack.
“The aim is to score as soon as we can and show our strengths from the kick-off at full tempo and hopefully score an early goal,”
“We don’t want to score one, but two, maybe more. We want to attack and to take risks,”
And boy did they deliver on their pre-match hype.
By the time some of us settled in to watch the game after 13 minutes, it was already 0-2 on the night and 1-3 on aggregate. It looked like it was going to be one of those disappointing nights again, but as a good Liverpool fan it was important to see just how bad the final result would be.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan converted from close-range after Simon Mignolet had saved superbly from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s volley. A few minutes later Marco Reus released Aubameyang with a superb through ball (one of three excellent ones on the night) behind Sakho and the on-form Gabonese fired an unstoppable rocket into the top corner.Three goals were now needed for Liverpool to win the tie.
Liverpool finally settled after that shocking start and began to make inroads into the Dortmund penalty area. Origi, Lallana, Moreno and Firmino all had some half chances but none on target. Lallana’s comical effort where he effectively tackled himself as he tried to shoot kind of summed up Liverpool’s evening at half time.
A glimmer of hope appeared for Liverpool just after the interval as the hard-working Belgian Origi was finally rewarded for his persistence, poking home after a delightful assist from Emre Can. Anfield found its voice, but was quickly silenced 9 minutes later when the excellent Reus finished after a superb through ball from defender Matt Hummels.
The home support was roused once again when Coutinho fired home into the bottom corner after exchanging passes with Jame Milner, and the noise levels were off the charts as the Liverpool fans went wild.
Mamadou Sakho, and his defensive partner Dejan Lovren, would prove to be the unlikely heroes to cap off an unbelievable Anfield night. Both players have been much maligned for their defensive blunders (and continued with this theme during this match) but all was forgiven as Sakho found the net from a Coutinho corner.
[A brief aside on Liverpool and the art of (not) taking corners – James Milner, who supplied the match winning cross for Lovren to head home the winner, was abysmal for 100% of the corners he took which couldn’t even clear the first defender. So much so that the Kop end had booed him as he ran up to take a corner.]
But all of that was quickly forgotten as Daniel Sturridge played a cheeky backheel to Milner who made a perfect cross for Lovren to head home and made the Liverpool commentators absolutely lose the plot.
The same problems remain at Liverpool – the defensive frailty, the uncertain goalkeeper, the inability to finish numerous chances created but all of that has been shoved far out of sight as the team and its supporters revel in yet another tale in a series of unlikely comebacks. What will be remembered is the team’s spirit and character and their resolve not to go down without fighting.
Even in defeat Dortmund remained classy, if still shell-shocked by the result and their manager Tuchel was gracious in defeat:
“Liverpool took a lot of risks towards the end, but they beat us fairly enough and I would like to offer congratulations. It is important to be honourable in defeat. It was quite a game, quite a night, but Liverpool won and they deserved it.”
Jurgen Klopp summed it up perfectly after the game:
“It was a wonderful, wonderful night. That was football at its best, a great game to experience for everyone involved.”
Liverpool certainly know how to put their fans through the wringer, but when the result ends like it did on another “famous European night at Anfield”, it all seems worthwhile. Unlike the miracle of Istanbul in 2005, this game did not bring with it silverware but it does allow Liverpool supporters the chance to dream and to hope once again.