Liverpool Opinion: Alisson was the unsung hero in the Reds’ stunning 4-0 victory over Barcelona at Anfield
Liverpool stunned Barcelona 4-0 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals at Anfield on Tuesday night, as braces from Georginio Wijnaldum and Divock Origi propelled the Reds to their second successive final of the competition with a 4-3 aggregate scoreline.
It was always going to be a daunting task for Jurgen Klopp’s side to overturn a 3-0 deficit against the La Liga champions, made even more difficult by the absence of Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah up front.
The Reds, however, managed to defy the odds and put up a remarkable performance against Ernesto Valverde’s side at home, which was reminiscent of Rafael Benitez’s side’s dramatic comeback in the 2004-05 Champions League finals against AC Milan.
Liverpool needed an early goal to put Barcelona on the backfoot and they managed to get one back through Divock’s Origi’s opener just 7 minutes into the game. A horrible piece of defending from Jordi Alba allowed Henderson to get inside the box and call Ter Stegen into action before Origi tapped in the rebound to make it 1-0, sparking a ray of hope amongst the raucous Anfield crowd.
Barcelona adopted a defensive approach and looked far from their best but they did create plenty of chances in the first half. Alisson kept out Lionel’s Messi’s powerful near post strike before denying the magician once again to keep the tie alive.
Philippe Coutinho was the next to test Alisson but the Brazilian was equal to the task and kept his international teammate at bay with another sharp save. Jordi Alba had a golden chance to draw level in first-half injury time but Alisson once again saved Liverpool’s demise by coming off his line to block the Spaniard’s goal-bound attempt.
Liverpool were forced into making a tactical change in the second half, with Andrew Roberton’s injury prompting Klopp to shift James Milner to right-back, while Georginio Wijnaldum came off the bench to play Milner’s role in the midfield trio. That change titled the tie in Liverpool’s favour, as Wijnaldum scored a brace in a space of two minutes to draw the Reds level on aggregate with Barcelona.
Trent Alexander Arnold came up with an inch-perfect delivery from the right to set up the Dutchman, who caught the opposition’s defence off-guard with an intelligent late run.
Xherdan Shaqiri was the provider for Wijnaldum’s second and Liverpool’s third on the night, as the Swiss international delivered another delicious ball into the area for the Dutchman to head home from close range.
Liverpool were in no mood to take the tie into extra-time and they continued to play a high defensive line. Messi threaded a wonderful through ball for Luis Suarez, who ran clear through on goal, only to be denied by another fine save from Alisson.
Liverpool’s No.1 between the sticks was once again in the firing line when Ivan Rakitic’s sumptuous lobbed pass found Messi’s run behind the backline but the Brazilian put his body on the line to stop Barcelona from getting the crucial away goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold justified his inclusion once again and showcased wonderful awareness and high footballing intelligence to set up Origi’s winner with an unorthodox delivery from a corner kick.
Liverpool capped off a fine display at home and completed arguably one of their best ever comebacks in their footballing history. It was a very compact team performance from the Reds that spoke volumes of their character and resilience but the fans have every reason to be divided in their opinion when it comes to the star player of the night.
While some might say that Wijnaldum and Origi were the men who mattered the most, others might be tempted to recall the kind of positive impact that Alexander-Arnold had down the right flank. However, not many would recognise how important a role Alisson played in goal for the Reds on a dramatic night at Anfield.
As a result of Liverpool’s extravagant pressing and high defensive line, Alisson was constantly in the firing line and he made a number of key saves to deny Messi, Coutinho, Suarez and Alba.
The Reds would probably have conceded 4 or 5 on the night had it not been for Alisson’s heroics in goal. The Brazilian was a picture of reliability at the back for Liverpool and it was his presence that allowed the centre-backs and the full-backs to press higher up the pitch.
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Winning the Premier League might not be in Liverpool’s hands any longer but few would argue that Jurgen Klopp’s side will be the outright favourites in the Champions League finals irrespective of whether they face Ajax or Tottenham Hotspur.