Utter despair to complete elation; the most cringe worthy of all cringe worthy football cliches most definitely applies, but football’s not so much as funny old game as it is one for complete masochists.
A quickfire opening from Borussia Dortmund saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan erase Liverpool’s away goal advantage within five minutes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang double up before before the ten minute mark to effectively end this tie as a contest — or, so you would have thought. Divock Origi pulled one back not long after the break to edge the Anfield faithful towards belief, but Marco Reus quickly restored the Germans two goal lead to quiet the Kop yet again. That should have been one and done for the visitors, but we’ve seen this movie before; Mamadou Sakho atoned for earlier mistakes by setting up a bit of late drama with a close range header and Dejan Lovren provided the coup de grace in extra time to seal an improbable victory and send the Reds through to the semi-finals of the Europa League.
“Then that was the moment in football – and in life – when you have to show character,” said Reds boss Jurgen Klopp in his post match chat, expanding on the scenes in the second half that saw his side somehow claw their way back and then over the top. “That’s what the lads did and it was pretty cool to watch,” he continued, flashing that knowing smile. “In the end, to come back in a game like this against this highest quality opponent and to win, you need a little bit of luck, but I think everybody who was part of the game, who saw the game, has to say at the end it was deserved.”
For someone who impersonates a writer on a day to day basis to say that they’re lost for words at a time like this is almost criminal, but for a person such as myself that roots their reality so firmly in logic, it’s joyus moments like these that disconnect what should be from what actually is. While you’d be blind not to point to the midfield’s role in the opening two goals, watching Sakho drop deep on both heaped blame on the inconsisent Frenchman, but he still came out a hero on the night, scoring his second goal in a the famous red shirt to put the tie back in the balance. Same goes for Philippe Coutinho, who gave the ball away on an incomprehensible number of occasions, responding after Reus had battered our confidence yet again and Lovren, who wasted a glorious chance to create something by choosing to hit an impossible volley when finding himself free in the box, popping up to head home the winner.
Joe Allen, who remains divise among the faithful, put in another imperious performance when tasked with settling the midfield, but, the most Liverpool thing on the night besides Liverpool actually being Liverpool belongs to James Milner. The much maligned stand in captain wasted so many corner kicks and played even more bad passes than I care to recount, but he somehow managed to bag three assists — even going so far as to provide the cross that Lovren steered in to send the Kop in to raptures and the media in to a satisfying state of disbelief.
It’s the hope that kills you when you’re down and seemingly out, but it’s the same that makes it all worth it when you witness what once seemed improbable. Going into halftime I read something on Twitter that I’d love to attribute to the original author; I can’t seem to find it anymore, but it went kind of like this: “Remember that this is Thomas Tuchel coaching a team put together by Jurgen Klopp and Jurgen Klopp coaching a team put together by Brendan Rodgers”.
You can go ahead and take that as you will, but you’d be very hard pressed not to lay a very large portion of this victory at the feet of the German, but you’d have an embarrassingly short memory to not remember that Europe is the continent ruled by Scousers and Anfield is its rightful capital.