I would be forgiven if I said I didn’t see this one coming. But football, as so often before, never fails to surprise us. The belief and emotion football brings on nights like these is unparalleled. Not only that but the brutality of football for those on the other side, the minuscule details and lapse of concentration can be decisive at this stage, as it proved. What we witnessed were two of the most magical nights in European history, back to back. Here’s a quick recap.
I’m not sure where to begin so let’s just give it a go. Barcelona were on course for a destined ninth Champions League Final following a 3-0 victory and Lionel Messi masterclass at the Camp Nou. The trophy they have been anguishing over since 2015. Despite the score, Liverpool bettered Barcelona at Shots, Possession, Passes and Corners. If only more people used this as a guide to how the second leg will play out.
So four goals would do it. Okay. Now neither Mo Salah or Roberto Firmino would be available for this game, two of Liverpool’s most prolific scorers and creators this season. Made more difficult? Yes. Made impossible? No.
The performance was energetic and filled with belief from the get-go. It personified Jurgen Klopp and his energy was translated onto the pitch. Not one player looked frightened of the task ahead, all focused on one goal: reaching the Final. An early David Origi tap in put Liverpool ahead. At half time, Liverpool still needed three more.
Barcelona looked dejected and almost frightened in the second half, each looking at the other for answers. The introduction of Georginio Wijnaldum would change the game. He bought two goals, the first was a smashed finish from a driven Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.
Not soon after, Xherdan Shaqiri floated one in, again 5ft9 Wijnaldum found himself in space between Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet, poking a header into the top corner. The momentum kept building up and the end result looked more and more likely as Barcelona only threatened through a Messi volley from close range.
Quick thinking by Alexander-Arnold late on as Barcelona players were admiring the architecture of Anfield, left Origi free to claim his second and Liverpool’s all-important fourth. 4-3 on aggregate. Magical. Historical. Whatever you want to call it, Liverpool created an opportunity to put last year right. Can Klopp, on his fourth attempt, win a European Final?
95:01. That number will live long in the memory of Spurs fans. For that was the moment the ball rolled past the line for Lucas Moura’s hat-trick and Tottenham’s first ever Champions League Final. Rewinding to the end of the first half, Spurs were trailing by two goals and 3-0 down on aggregate.
It’d of been very difficult to predict and give a reason as to how Spurs could clue anything back in the second half unless you could predict the future or saw the Liverpool game the day before.
A Matthijs de Ligt header from an Ajax corner following questionable defending from Spurs gave them an early lead. Thirty minutes later it would be Hakim Ziyech’s turn to smash one in.
Tottenham desperately needed a hero, an inspiration, for the second half. Up steps the last signing they’d made, Lucas Moura, back in January 2018. The Brazilian wingers’ speed was crucial for his first, as he expertly glided one in the bottom right corner following good play from Dele Alli.
Just four minutes later, a royal rumble in the box led to the ball dropping at Moura’s feet again. Quick thinking and close ball control would give him his second, and the miracle was a step closer to becoming a reality.
94:54 is the time on the clock as Moussa Sissoko hopelessly floats in a long ball. de Ligt hustles Fernando Llorente before his touch finds Alli just outside the box. Moura has already smelt the danger and is on the move in the space vacated in behind.
Alli plays it through and Moura beats Di Ligt to the ball by a millisecond, before slicing a shot past the stretching André Onana. Similar to his first, but of a very different magnitude and meaning this time. Spurs served up an incredible end to this frantic Champions League knockout stage