Liverpool created one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history after beating Barcelona 4-0 on Tuesday, advancing to the final with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
In last week’s first leg in Spain, Liverpool went behind to a goal from former striker Luis Suarez and a double from Lionel Messi put Barcelona in the driving seat.
Liverpool were without injured strikers Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino but took a seventh-minute lead from Jordan Henderson and eventually an extraordinary fourth goal from a quickly-taken corner.
The Reds played 90 minutes of unimaginably polished soccer in front of a frenzied home crowd. They shut out Barcelona and Lionel Messi, 4-0, winning the Champions League semifinal matchup, 4-3 on aggregate. Their offense was intense. Their defense was laudable. And now they will play for a European title against either Tottenham or Ajax.
Barcelona led, 3-0, after the first leg at Camp Nou, with Messi scoring twice, including once on a majestic, bending free kick. On Tuesday, he made a few dangerous runs through swarms of defenders, but was not able to lift his side this time.
Liverpool’s inspired effort had Manager Jurgen Klopp struggling to stick to the usual coach-speak script.
“Most of the children are probably in bed, but these boys are f—— giants,” he said on camera, taking note of the late hour. “It’s unbelievable. If you have to fine me, fine me.”
Divock Origi scored on a rebound in the seventh minute, giving Liverpool the start it desperately needed, but Barcelona could still feel fairly confident in its chances. Then the Reds’ Georginio Wijnaldum scored twice — two minutes apart, in the 54th and 56th minutes — before Origi scored again on a sneaky corner kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold in the 79th minute.
Alexander-Arnold went to take the corner, then walked away from the ball. As he did, Barcelona’s defense relaxed, and Alexander-Arnold quickly went back over the ball and swept a low, hard cross to Origi, who slotted it in and gave Liverpool a winning margin that few expected at the start of the day.
“Unbelievable. I don’t think many people gave us a chance,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said. “Before the game we knew that it would be difficult, but it was still possible, of course. It’s amazing. We knew that at Anfield we could do something special.”
For the second straight year, Barcelona found itself on the wrong end of one of a comeback. In 2018, the Spanish colossus squandered a 4-1, first-leg lead against AS Roma and was ousted in the quarterfinals. Valverde also described the absences of Salah and another Liverpool standout, Roberto Firmino, as “a big miss for them,” but on Tuesday it was his star-studded side that appeared in need of a boost.
Messi created several promising offensive beginnings, but none of his teammates were finishers. Barcelona keeper Marc-André ter Stegen got his body on one shot, but couldn’t keep it out, and was caught napping on the fourth and decisive goal.
When the clock struck the 95th minute of stoppage time, Anfield Stadium burst into rapturous cheers.
Liverpool has become the third team in the history of the European Cup to advance in the semifinals after falling behind by three goals in the first leg, according to the Associated Press. The others were Panathinaikos, in 1970-71, and as fate would have it, Barcelona in 1985-86.
“I saw [Liverpool veteran] James Milner crying after the game on the pitch. It means so much to all of us,” Klopp said. “There are more important things in the world, but creating this emotional atmosphere together is so special.”
Liverpool will play the winner of Wednesday’s other semi-final between Ajax Amsterdam and Tottenham Hotspur.