By Emmanuel Ebimoh
In what would seem like the greatest comeback in Champions League history, Liverpool pulled what many would term as ‘magical’ when they historically came from 3 goals down at half time to beat AC Milan in penalties in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final.
It was simply magical. On the night at Istanbul, the Italian giant had the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Hernan Crespo, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Kaka, Paolo Maldini, Cafu, and Alessandro Nesta. It was a star-studded AC Milan team. At half time, the game had already gone one-sided as goals from Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo pierced an indelible thrust into the hearts of the Liverpool faithfuls. It was Liverpool 0 – AC Milan 3. It seemed like a mountain too high to overcome.
Then it happened. The glory of Liverpool came forth like many stars glittering in the sky. Not that many people didn’t believe in miracles at the time, but on that night, even the gods stood marvelled at the scenes at Istanbul. Goals from captain Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer, and Xabi Alonso sent Liverpool fans all over the world into complete ecstasy. And it all happened in 10 minutes! In just 10 minutes, Liverpool had turned the game around. It was 3-3!
Such scenes, such drama, such European night would surely live long in the hearts of many football fans. It reignited the old adage that says “It’s not over until it’s over.” Indeed, it was an unprecedented comeback. Liverpool eventually became the champions of Europe after winning AC Milan in that final game on penalties.
If the magic on that night at Istanbul was termed as the greatest comeback in champions league history, then whatever happens tonight in Liverpool’s favour would be beyond words – indescribable. Tonight, Liverpool will play Barcelona in a UEFA Champions League 2nd leg semi-final showdown. Tonight, Anfield will have no choice but to pray, hope, and believe without any shred of doubt that the word ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist anymore in any vocabulary.
Just as it was in 2005, Liverpool have a 3-goal deficit to turn around. And if they are to reinvent the magic of that historical final, they have to start by scoring three unreplied goals against Barcelona. However, in this case, there’s a big tricky clause. For every goal Barcelona scores tonight, Liverpool would have to make sure they win with a goal difference of 4! That is, if Barcelona scores one goal, Liverpool would have to score five to win the game. If Barcelona scores two goals, Liverpool would have to score six. It’s that simple, but…but, anyway, an average Liverpool fan would know better.
Let’s have a quick review at the prospect of both teams going into tonight’s game.
Liverpool are in a rather dicey situation. Key players like Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and probably Virgil Van Dijk have been ruled out of the game due to injuries. This would undoubtedly leave a disappointing dent on the team when they file out tonight.
For Barcelona, they seem to be cruising with an almost injury-free team. However, not ignoring the presence of other key players in the team, the impact of one man would, without a doubt, be a big factor in the game. His name is Lionel Messi.
Mark Lawrenson, football pundit and former Liverpool defender succinctly explains the impact of the ‘Little Genius’:
“Clearly Liverpool need to score some goals, but they also need to stop him, somehow. To do that, they will need to play in Barcelona’s half as much as possible because, as brilliant as Messi is, I haven’t seen him score from his own half yet.
“If Liverpool do manage to get some control of the game, and see lots of the ball in Barca’s territory, then it is possible that they can negate Messi a bit.
“But, even if that works, you just know there will be a spell in the game where he will come alive and then it will be a case of “’hang on to your hats’.”
Tonight, history will either repeat itself or the red flames of Anfield will be quenched this season.
For Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, they’ll be hoping that while they plot a way to stop Lionel Messi and Barcelona from scoring, the fire and passion of that special night at Istanbul in 2005 will be reignited for their favour. But, regardless of the outcome of the game, Liverpool Manager, Jurgen Klopp has assured that he’s sure his side will put up a good performance to either shock Barcelona or “fail beautifully”.
Emmanuel Ebimoh is a media enthusiast, loves reading and writing, and has a special interest in sports and news reporting. He is an editor and writer for 9News Nigeria.