The road to Madrid: Liverpool


Jurgen Klopp has guided Liverpool to a second consecutive Champions League final, hoping he can make amends for the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid last year. Here we recall the journey as Liverpool hope to win the trophy in the city of last year’s opponents, Madrid.

On paper, Liverpool fans would be forgiven if they were questioning their ability to negotiate their group. The Merseyside team were drawn against Paris Saint Germain (PSG), Napoli and Red Star Belgrade. All three tricky ties which offered up their own challenges.

The opening game was expected to be a key clash in how the group panned out, as they hosted PSG at Anfield. It proved to be an entertaining affair as Liverpool ran out 3-2 winners. The home side flew into a 2-0 lead via Daniel Sturridge and James Milner before Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Meunier pegged them back late in the match. But Roberto Firmino scored a last gasp winner to put Liverpool in the driving seat for Group C.

Next up for Liverpool was a trip to Naples, Italy. Carlo Ancelotti was in the process of embedding his style on the Serie A side and he managed to negotiate a 1-0 win over Klopp. A late Lorenzo Insigne goal gave the home side all three points and put a huge sense of optimism around the Stadio Sao Paolo for the coming season.

Red Star Belgrade had qualified for the Champions League for the first time since it’s brand change from the European Cup. They come off the back of a 6-1 defeat to PSG when they visited Anfield and got a similar treatment from the Kop. Mohamed Salah hit a brace whilst Firmino and Mane got in on the act to run out 4-0 winners and put Liverpool’s progress in the group back on track.

The reverse fixtures began and Liverpool went to Belgrade expecting to handle the matter in the same manner they did at home. But Belgrade had other plans as they pulled off a shock 2-0 win over the Reds. Forward Milan Pavkov pulled off a stellar performance to give his side a famous win over Liverpool and put Klopp’s Champions League journey in jeopardy with two difficult games approaching.

The penultimate group game was a home fixture against the Parisians, PSG. Liverpool hoped to get another win over their direct rivals for the top spot but failed to deliver. Juan Bernat and Brazilian maestro Neymar proved the difference in the 2-1 win. James Milner replying to those goals with an effort from the spot.

The final game saw Napoli travel to England in an all or nothing game. A Liverpool win would all but assure progress whilst Napoli knew they just had to get a positive result to progress at their expense. But Salah proved the difference as his 34th-minute goal gave Liverpool the win and second place in Group C whilst Napoli dropped to the Europa League.

Round of 16: Liverpool v Bayern Munich

Finishing in second place meant Liverpool would face one of the group winners from the rest of the competition. The draw threw up a tie against Bayern Munich in the last 16, serial German Champions and Champions League heavyweights. Fortunately for Liverpool, Bayern were going through a rough patch, with coach Niko Kovac struggling to get the team playing to the best of their ability.

The first leg finished in a drab 0-0 affair, which is exactly what Bayern had set out to achieve at Anfield. They showed very little intent to take the game to the home side and sat soaking up any attacks thrown at them by the men in red.

But Liverpool would still feel disappointed they never took a lead to Germany. Sadio Mane wasted several chances after a scare at the back saw Joel Matip slice a clearance which gave Alisson something to deal with.  The statistics were damning for Liverpool, Bayern had lost just two of their last 26 Champions League games in the Allianz Arena.

But it was to be made three defeats when the second leg came around. Liverpool romped to a 3-1 victory. Sadio Mane making amends for his wasted opportunities in the first leg to hit a brace, bamboozling Manuel Neuer with his first. Virgil Van Dijk killed the tie off with a towering header which sent Liverpool racing into the quarter-finals.

Quarter-final: Liverpool v FC Porto

These teams met on Liverpool’s route to the final last time out. Klopp’s side romped to a 5-0 first leg victory at Porto in 2018 before seeing the game out with a 0-0 draw at Anfield. Porto were hoping to make amends for that embarrassing defeat by putting an end to this season’s run

But Liverpool yet again proved their superiority over the Portugese side, a 6-1 win on aggregate proving the gulf in class on the pitch.

The first leg was a routine win, 2-0 with Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino on the scoresheet. There was little threat from Porto outside of forward Moussa Marega who was lacking the clinical instinct required in games of this magnitude.

The second leg was a much more open affair, Liverpool again enjoyed themselves in Porto’s home with a 4-1 win. Mane, Salah, Firmino and Van Dijk all getting on the scoresheet. Although it was not plain sailing in the manner the home leg was, Liverpool had to survive an early bombardment in the Estadio do Dragao, as Porto looked to get back in the game early and put pressure on this Liverpool side.

But once Mane had slotted away the opening goal, heads seem to drop from the Portuguese club and there was seemingly only one winner. CLose range headers from Firmino and Van Dijk sealed the tie and set up a semi-final against Barcelona.

Semi-final: Liverpool v Barcelona

In what was easily the toughest tie in this Champions League run so far, Liverpool were drawn to face Barcelona. This tie saw the return of former players and fan favourites Luis Suarez and Phillipe Coutinho, both of whom had made big money moves to the Catalan club in recent years.

What was to come, would be one of the most scintillating Champions League ties in living memory as Klopp guided his side from a 3-0 first leg deficit to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate.

Barcelona took a commanding lead from the Camp Nou, Lionel Messi showcasing his abilities to torment the Liverpool defence. It was the former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez who opened the scoring just before half time, making a darting front post run to tuck away a Jordi Alba cross.

Liverpool came out fighting in the second half and were in the ascendancy before Lionel Messi got on the scoresheet with a fortuitous goal, tapping in a rebound off the crossbar after an unorthodox effort from Suarez had Alisson beaten. The game was capped off with a world-class free kick from the Argentine with minutes to go, Messi brushed himself off after a foul from Fabinho to lash the ball into the top corner from all of 35 yards.

The mood was cautiously optimistic from Liverpool fans in the return leg. Despite the deficit and the level of opposition, european nights at Anfield are things to be feared for visiting teams. And so it proved as Liverpool defied all the odds to crush Barcelona 4-0 and progress to the final .

Divock Origi got Liverpool off a flyer scoring tapping in from close range within minutes of the game beginning. Liverpool smelt blood as they squeezed Barcelona into submission, Gini Wijnaldum was introduced and scored twice in 122 seconds to bring the aggregate score level at 3-3.

In the dying minutes, as Liverpool were chasing a winner, Trent Alexander-Arnold produced a moment of genius as he took advantage of Barcelona’s nonchalant defending at set pieces. The full-back began to walk away from a corner kick before sprinting back to the ball and whipping a low cross to Origi who stood unmarked to lash the ball into the top corner. A finish that was befitting of the magnitude of goal and the ingenuity from Alexander-Arnold.

The final whistle blew and Anfield erupted into an almighty roar as yet another magical European night was witnessed on Merseyside. Liverpool were in a second consecutive Champions League final and in the most dramatic of circumstances. Their opposition? Fellow Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.


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