Istanbul lives long in the memory but the performance in the 2005 Champions League has arguably been surpassed by Liverpool’s display in getting to the 2019 final – a 4-0 demolition of Barcelona could go down as the greatest performance in the club’s history.
Trailing 3-0 from the first leg of the semi-final, braces from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum condemned bewildered and brittle Barcelona to a deserved defeat over the tie as Jurgen Klopp led his side into a second successive final.
They had their chances in the first half but Lionel Messi and Co looked toothless throughout as they failed to make the most of a succession of openings that came their way.
Excellent in the first half, Arturo Vidal was essentially anonymous – much like everyone else in a luminous yellow shirt – after the break as effervescent Liverpool shone.
Here we take a closer look at the Chilean’s lukewarm performance.
Anfield was jacked even before kick-off – but the hopeful crowd suddenly erupted into expectation when their beloved Reds took the lead. Jordan Henderson slalomed into the box and forced a save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the rebound pounced on by Origi who gleefully tapped in.
They naturally opened themselves up to Spanish scrutiny as they looked to blast their way back into the game – but Alisson stood up to everything, while woeful finishing also allowed Liverpool off the hook.
They started the second half poorly and Liverpool just kept coming. Eleven minutes into the second period, the hosts were, incredibly, level, Wijnaldum’s quickfire brace making the impossible suddenly plausible.
He swept home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deflected cross and then towered in a header from Xherdan Shaqiri’s peach of a delivery from the other side. Quick-thinking from the young right-back then saw the hosts snatch the lead; Barca dallied at a corner and Alexander-Arnold swept low to Origi who smashed home his second. Unreal scenes.
Goals – 0
Tackles – 7
Interceptions – 2
Touches – 56
Passes – 37
Pass accuracy – 78.4%
Aerials won – 1
Fouled – 1
GOT RIGHT – SETTING THE TONE
Vidal was Barca’s best player in the first leg and he mirrored that showing in the first half, the catalyst for the visitors being able to match the home side’s heart, tenacity and passion.
Liverpool started sharply but Barca – buoyed by the fact that one goal would likely kill the Reds off – also poured forward and threatened on numerous occasions.
Vidal snapped into tackles and energised those around him, one gorgeously pinged pass was so glorious, we had to check the replay to confirm it wasn’t Messi. Not a player who usually offers much going forward, an impish back-heel on the edge of the box also led to a Messi chance.
GOT WRONG – INDUSTRY BUT NO INCISION
If Barca were hoping their lion could lead Liverpool to the slaughter like lambs, they were sadly mistaken. As good as the Chilean was in the opening 45 minutes and as incisive as Barca were against a charging Liverpool, they were both equally as timid in the second 45.
He lost Wijnaldum who proceeded to reduce the deficit to a goal – even though there was an element of luck in how the ball arrived to him – and he looked all at sea as the relentless hosts pressed and poked holes in an increasingly creaking Blaugrana XI.
As much as his energy and drive had fuelled his side in the opening half, his lack of creativity and guile in the second half was clearly evident, with Liverpool running on adrenaline and Barcelona on empty.
Vidal’s warrior spirit was needed on a night when Barcelona, seemingly on the brink, only needed one goal to kill the tie off, and initially, at least, his tenacity was a key feature as others followed his lead.
Barca required one goal – they could have had four – but a lack of killer instinct in front of Alisson let Liverpool back in it. And, as much as his bark had let Liverpool know they needed to be wary of Barcelona’s bite in the first half, a spineless second 45 saw big dogs Barca and Vidal exit with their tails firmly between their legs.
The horrible performance will surely come with serious consequences, starting with the fate of manager Ernesto Valverde – which kicks off our talking points from the action.
Can Valverde survive?
Will Barca manager Valverde still be in post at the beginning of next season? It must be highly unlikely. After putting themselves into a commanding position with a 3-0 first leg lead, his team completely fell apart to suffer a humiliating 4-0 loss and the manager is bound to receive a roasting.
Of course, the players are due their fair share of criticism after committing a series of terrible individual errors and failing to collectively rouse themselves. And Liverpool’s magnificent performance cannot be underestimated – the Reds won this tie as much as the Blaugrana lost it.
But this was the second year in a row that Barca have suffered second leg collapses after gaining three-goal leads, and the old adage that you should never make the same mistake twice will be held firmly against the manager.
Valverde particularly stands accused of failing to turn things around when he had the chance during the half-time interval: his team were shambolic at the start of the second half, conceding twice in the first ten minutes.
And in this kind of situation, the buck stops with the manager.
No rescue act from Messi
After his sensational performance in the first leg last week, Lionel Messi had plenty of chances to sentence the tie in the rematch at Anfield. For once, though, the Argentine star was off the mark with his finishing despite regularly threatening the Liverpool goal.
Messi’s first forward thrust came in the opening minute when he darted through to the edge of the area before being dispossessed. His first chance came shortly after Liverpool’s opener, with a snapshot from just inside the box that Alisson did well to turn over the crossbar.
Another chance soon came when Jordi Alba laid the ball into Messi’s path in a great position on the edge of the box, but he took too long switching the ball onto his left foot and was dispossessed.
Still in the first half, Messi then drilled a couple of low long-range shots just wide, before nearly teeing up an equaliser with a great through ball to Alba who was denied by Alisson’s good stop.
The second half started with Messi releasing a perfect pass for Suarez which the Uruguayan failed to convert, before he sent a long-range free-kick into the wall and then had an angled drive saved. In the latter stages he was anonymous, and this will go down as one of the worst nights of his career.
Where were the options?
Liverpool had a pair of established internationals, Divick Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri, on hand to replace their injured starters Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah, and later introduced Daniel Sturridge – another experienced striker – from the bench.
That shows they have something all top-quality teams surely need: strength in depth in the goalscoring positions.
Barcelona, meanwhile, had…nobody. Their substitutions were full-back Nelson Semedo, ball-playing midfielder Arthur and winger Malcom, who have combined for a grand total of five goals in all competitions.
The only other centre forward in the squad, Kevin Prince Boateng, wasn’t even named on the bench after making no impact whatsoever following his bizarre signing in January – and he’s not even a real centre forward anyway.
For Barca, all season it has been a case of Messi and Suarez or bust. On this occasion, it was bust. And surely by now the club’s hierarchy have learned that putting all the goalscoring weight on the shoulders of two players – no matter how great they are – is a bad idea.
Barca must surely recruit at least two high-class forwards in the summer, and the club’s squad management department, headed by Eric Abidal, must share a portion of blame for this fiasco.
The Reds were full of heroes all over the pitch, while Barcelona delivered a calamitous display which will surely carry consequences.
Check out our full player ratings here.
Ter Stegen 4. Perhaps could have done better with the first two goals and rarely looked secure on a rare off night.
Roberto 5. Improved from a slow start to lift his team. Moved into midfield and one of few Barca players to emerge with any credit.
Pique 5. Made some interventions inside the box and must have felt like a one-man defence at times.
Lenglet 3. After a great season he was all at sea, never looking comfortable against Liverpool’s pace and movement.
Alba 3. Terrible errors led to the first two goals, and he just had a horror show all night. Worst game of his career?
Vidal 7. Helped settle his team from their poor start, but faded in the second half and was replaced.
Rakitic 4. Tried to impose calm in midfield but that too often became passive sloppiness. Replaced near the end.
Busquets 4. Lack of pace regularly exposed by Liverpool’s swarming attacks, and he looks a sadly spent force.
Coutinho 4. Some sharp early attacking moments but he was well off the pace and substituted after an hour.
Messi 5. Had plenty of chances to play the hero role, for once he couldn’t do it as Alisson repelled him.
Suarez 3. Lacked power with a decent chance early in the second half, and failed to trouble the home defence.
Semedo 4. Came on at right-back after an hour but didn’t improve things, vulnerable at the back and wayward in attack.
Arthur 4. Appeared after 75 minutes with the aim of giving control in midfield but failed to do so.
Malcom 4. Last throw of the dice from Valverde, couldn’t make anything of his few chances to pose danger.