By Aristo Dotse
Last Tuesday, Liverpool sensationally made another great European comeback for a remarkable victory over Barcelona to qualify for their ninth European Cup final on June 1 in Madrid against fellow English side Tottenham Hotspur.
And like Klopp said, that day – May 7, 2019 – is one that Liverpool will never forget as one of the greatest nights in European competition in their illustrious history.
The Reds ‘unbelievable 4-0 dismissal of Barcelona in the second leg in another great European night at their iconic home of Anfield, after undeservedly losing 3-0 in the first leg in Barcelona, for a monumental, memorable triumph did not only give them their second successive final in the Champions League after last year’s loss to Real Madrid. But it also gave them their third European final in the last four seasons under their charismatic German manager Jurgen Norbert Klopp, following their Europa League final defeat to another Spanish side Sevilla in 2016 in Klopp’s first season.
Klopp, the former Borussia Dortmund manager who took Dortmund to his first Champions League final in 2013 and lost to Bayern Munich in the only all-German final of the European Cup at Wembley Stadium in London, joined Liverpool in October 2015. And after drawing away against this year’s Champions League final opponents Tottenham in the Premier League in his first game as Liverpool boss, he did a remarkable job in taking the Reds to an unlikely final in the Europa League in his first season.
On the way to that final in Basel which the Reds lost 3-1, he masterminded and witnessed his first great European night at Anfield when Liverpool produced a magnificent comeback to beat his former side – Dortmund – 4-3 to make it to the semi-final. That was after Dortmund had led 3-1 at a point in time at Anfield with 25 minutes to go, following 1-1 in the first leg in Dortmund.
That Dortmund comeback, however, is nothing compared to the gigantic, amazing turnaround Klopp oversaw over Barcelona as Liverpool unbelievably, brilliantly and deservedly made their way to Madrid for their third European final in four seasons under him. It also marked his own third Champions League final.
No team, at least in recent time, dominates Barcelona, especially at their hugely imposing Nou Camp fortress. But Klopp and Liverpool did it, and also in impressive fashion.
Liverpool dominated the first leg in Barcelona but fell short in not getting at least a goal from the several good chances that came their way at the Nou Camp in their 3-0 loss, with some of the blame going to Klopp for his team selection and tactics on the day. But he remarkably, when no one expected, especially following the absence through injury of two of his three trusted first-choice frontline stars – Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah – produced a capable team and a blockbuster performance that blew away Barcelona and maintained his impressively remarkable two-leg winning record with Liverpool in European competitions.
Indeed, Klopp – who also took Liverpool to the English League Cup final in his first season – is the king of two-legged affairs in Europe with Liverpool. It is now 11 wins out of 11 knock-out European ties for the man, encompassing one Europa League and two Champions League campaigns, all of which have ended in finals.
The pick of those knock-out wins is definitely Tuesday’s one against Lionel Messi and the recent former Liverpool stars – Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho – and co. With the Spanish champions dismissed, Tottenham now await in Madrid, at Atletico’s Madrid’s new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
This final against Spurs – who have admitted that their own great semi-final comeback win over Ajax on Wednesday was inspired by Liverpool’s over Barca 24 hours earlier – is the hurdle Klopp needs to overcome now to seal his fantastic European record, especially with Liverpool, as he attempts to win his first European title. Three recent defeats, in the Champions League finals of 2013 and 2018 and Europa League final of 2016, is not a great record to be proud of.
Credit: Soccernet Newspaper