Liverpool defy the odds against Barcelona with help from a 'special' Anfield

CNN Sport's Amanda Davies reflects on an historical night in Anfield when Liverpool came back to beat Barcelona 4-0 to make the 2019 Champions League Final

Posted: May 9, 2019 12:20 PM
Updated: May 9, 2019 12:20 PM

Liverpool's stunning comeback against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals has been described as the greatest in European history. But how did the English Premier League side overcome a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 on aggregate and stun the La Liga champions? CNN Sport looks at five key reasons why the match turned in Liverpool's favor.

READ: Liverpool stuns Barcelona to reach Champions League final

An atmosphere like no other

Anfield under the floodlights tends to inspire. There is always hope on European nights when Liverpool plays in the iconic stadium, nestled among back-to-back terraced houses.

The city of Liverpool and the Anfield district has had its fair share of economic and social problems and the football club is seen as key to the area's redevelopment.

It's estimated that the Premier League team boosted the local economy by $644 million during the 2017/2018 season, with 1.5 million fans coming to Anfield. On Tuesday one of those fans was Australian Mark Calleja, who had traveled from Sydney to watch the second leg semifinal. He told CNN Sport that it was "rare to get an opportunity" to witness what unfolded.

Ahead of major European games the Anfield district rocks. Thousands of fans gather in the streets surrounding the stadium. Songs are sung and flares are lit as opposition teams are given a taste of what to expect once they get on the pitch.

Another warning for the opposition that this might be a stadium like no other is the "This Is Anfield" sign that's hung in the players' tunnel. It's the last thing a player would see before a game.

Fans belt out the club's anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" ahead of kickoff to further pump up the volume. Originally written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Liverpool supporters adopted the song after Merseyside band Gerry and the Pacemakers released a cover version in 1963.

It's because of the crowd's ability to galvanize that progress to the Champions League final was never entirely dismissed despite the 3-0 first-leg deficit Jurgen Klopp and his men had to overcome. Even the most experienced visitors can become paralyzed when in the middle of the Anfield din.

"If I have to describe this club then it's a big heart and tonight [Tuesday] it was pounding like crazy," said Klopp after the miracle match. "You could hear it all over the world."

The Liverpool faithful has roused its team to achieve the unlikely before -- there was the 2004 victory over Olympiakos and the 4-3 thriller over Borussia Dortmund in 2016 -- but nothing compares to the astonishing 4-0 win over a team led by Lionel Messi, their tormentor at the Camp Nou.

At a shaking Anfield, when the lights are at full wattage and the crowd is making eardrums ring, even some of the greatest footballers the world has seen can be rattled.

"I don't think I'll see or hear an atmosphere like this again," said Alan Shearer, commentating on BBC Radio 5 live.

Visit CNN.com/sport for more news, features and videos

From sidelines to starring roles

Even with a history of defying the odds in Europe -- the "Miracle of Istanbul" when 3-0 down at halftime to AC Milan in the 2005 final to name but one -- Liverpool was not really expected to knock out a Barcelona side which had just won La Liga and was chasing a treble.

There was no Mo Salah or Roberto Firmino for Barcelona to contend with. How could replacements Divock Origi -- a player who had not scored in the Champions League -- and Xherdan Shaqiri trouble the visiting defense to such an extent that it would concede four? Well, they did.

It was the Belgian -- who has twice scored match-winning goals in the EPL this season -- who sparked the revival, tapping in from close range, sowing seeds of doubt, causing the decibels inside Anfield to rise some more.

And, of course, it was Origi who lasered the winner into the net after Trent Alexander-Arnold's quickly taken corner, described as a "genius" moment by his manager. Powerful, tireless, pacy, the 24-year-old was part of a front three which left Barcelona gulping for breath.

Shaqiri, starting a match for the first time since January, harried and hurried the frazzled men in yellow, which is not usually his forte. When a player known more for guile than grit works tirelessly then anything can indeed happen. And it did.

Summer signings a force

If the Reds were without two of their prolific front three, in Sadio Mane, the lone representative of Liverpool's famed forward line, they had an indefatigable forward who was a constant threat.

At the other end of the field was Alisson, briefly the world's most expensive goalkeeper when he joined from Roma for $84 million last summer, and playing as much a part in the astonishing victory as the men who formed the red wave in front of him.

Twice he produced fine saves from Messi, and also kept out Philippe Coutinho, Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez, to deny Barcelona a precious away goal. Neither was the Brazilian the only summer signing to shine. Fabinho was a force, Virgil van Djik dominant.

And then there was the academy product Alexander-Arnold, who is just 20, providing the creativity from the right flank missed in the first leg, and captain Jordan Henderson, surging forward, leading by example despite being hindered by a knee injury.

"Winning is difficult but with a clean sheet, I don't know how they did it," said Klopp afterwards. "I said to the boys before 'I don't think it's possible but because it's you I think we have a chance' -- they are really mentality giants. It's unbelievable."

Klopp the charismatic leader

This was 90 minutes of red rage, a heavy metal match in the Klopp mold.

In his three years at Liverpool, Klopp had already overseen enough sensational European nights to put him into Anfield folklore -- the triumph over Dortmund, last season's victories over Manchester City and the drubbing of Roma. But there had been nothing quite as joyous as this.

"I'm not sure if it will happen again because it's so special," said the German. "When I saw the boys after the game and saw the tears in their eyes, that's football. This club touches you like crazy, it's like you feel much more than others in these moments."

Only twice before had a team recovered from three goals down in a Champions League/European Cup semifinal. That an injury-hit Liverpool did it against one of the defining teams of the age makes it all the more remarkable.

Former Real Madrid and Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho said the Liverpool boss was the driving force behind the victory.

"I have to say that for me, this has one name -- Jurgen," said Mourinho on beIN Sports. "I think this is not about tactics, this is not about philosophy, this is about heart and soul, and a fantastic empathy he created with this group of players."

Though this will be a fourth major final under Klopp -- and a second successive in the Champions League -- he has yet to win silverware as Liverpool boss.

"I know what people say about me and losing finals, that's absolutely right," said Klopp. "But it's the fourth final in that time as well we are in, that's pretty special already."

Wijnaldum outshines Messi

"I was really angry that the manager put me on the bench," admitted Georginio Wijnaldum, a player who may not have been introduced at half-time had Luis Suarez's studs not made contact with Andy Robertson, forcing off the left-back prematurely.

With fire in his belly, a player who had previously only scored once in the Champions League morphed into a ruthless predator, scoring twice in 122 seconds to draw Liverpool level at 3-3. It was the first time the Dutchman had scored a brace for the Reds.

His first goal squirmed underneath Marc-Andre Ter Stegen's arm, his second was a sublime header. "I would have been proud of that one," Shearer, the most prolific striker in EPL history, said of the midfielder's third.

Wijnaldum came off the bench, adjusted to the pace of the chaos before him, and inflicted lethal wounds on a Barcelona side which was capitulating in the knockout stages of Europe's premier cup competition for a second successive season.

For the Catalans, there will be an inquest. For Liverpool, Madrid awaits in June after a comeback for the ages.

Terre Haute
Overcast
31° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 19°
Robinson
Overcast
31° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 20°
Indianapolis
Overcast
30° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 18°
Rockville
Overcast
27° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 15°
Casey
Overcast
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 20°
Brazil
Overcast
31° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 19°
Marshall
Overcast
31° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 19°
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 720114

Reported Deaths: 12882
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook3042206595
DuPage45087788
Will38684563
Lake37299631
Kane31767467
Winnebago18948262
Madison14379255
McHenry14269156
St. Clair13410259
Champaign1079858
Sangamon1015799
Peoria9147133
Kankakee8636103
Rock Island8612135
McLean848954
Tazewell6835104
Macon6517132
Kendall626947
LaSalle6108134
DeKalb499047
Adams473548
Vermilion391551
Boone390733
Whiteside3743115
Williamson361083
Clinton330861
Coles329859
Ogle285037
Knox280766
Grundy277618
Effingham277021
Henry270015
Jackson268536
Marion248551
Stephenson246635
Randolph226826
Livingston224527
Macoupin223218
Morgan220936
Bureau211643
Monroe207545
Franklin204825
Lee201034
Christian189443
Jefferson187859
Woodford175827
Fayette170931
Logan170113
Iroquois169326
McDonough158241
Fulton146012
Shelby137426
Douglas135416
Jersey127224
Union118228
Montgomery115519
Crawford112213
Saline111625
Perry110223
Warren109020
Jo Daviess107617
Carroll107024
Lawrence107011
Bond104810
Pike101427
Cass96423
Hancock95612
Wayne90833
Moultrie89810
Clay84020
Greene82831
Edgar80815
Clark79820
Piatt7835
Richland78019
Ford75222
Mercer74510
Mason72120
Johnson7136
Washington7002
Jasper64411
Cumberland61416
White6148
De Witt61317
Massac5993
Wabash5708
Menard4661
Pulaski4132
Marshall4066
Hamilton3873
Brown3224
Henderson2891
Schuyler2711
Stark2683
Alexander2562
Calhoun2470
Putnam2430
Scott2310
Edwards2263
Gallatin1913
Unassigned1850
Hardin1551
Pope1011
Out of IL100

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 333312

Reported Deaths: 5685
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion45371865
Lake28722469
Allen19325304
Elkhart17945235
St. Joseph17599237
Hamilton14061171
Vanderburgh10280127
Tippecanoe920230
Porter873389
Johnson6973170
Hendricks6674158
Vigo637392
Monroe560850
Madison5410122
Clark540478
Delaware5184103
LaPorte492897
Kosciusko480741
Howard379478
Bartholomew347365
Warrick343073
Wayne340985
Floyd334978
Marshall317946
Cass307931
Grant295450
Hancock286957
Noble269347
Henry262837
Boone261955
Dubois249632
Dearborn238231
Jackson235534
Morgan228743
Gibson201229
Shelby199859
Knox196621
DeKalb190234
Clinton189222
Lawrence187949
Wabash181122
Miami176817
Adams176223
Daviess165845
Fayette157634
Steuben156415
Jasper155913
Montgomery154629
Harrison154124
Ripley151521
LaGrange150631
Whitley146815
Huntington140210
Decatur137144
Putnam134828
White134823
Wells134630
Clay132724
Randolph132622
Jefferson131316
Posey127718
Scott118921
Greene109053
Sullivan105016
Jay104414
Jennings97814
Starke96624
Spencer9078
Fulton88619
Perry86421
Fountain8608
Washington8387
Franklin75727
Carroll73713
Orange71828
Vermillion6867
Owen6598
Tipton62727
Parke6226
Rush5918
Newton58812
Blackford57312
Pike54020
Pulaski44215
Benton3843
Martin3826
Brown3705
Crawford3221
Union2862
Switzerland2725
Warren2653
Ohio2437
Unassigned0267