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.
[Image] Lucas Moura to lead the line? – Predicted 4-2-3-1 Tottenham XI to face Liverpool in the Champions League final
Tottenham vs Liverpool Predictions: Tottenham Line-up
Tottenham take on Liverpool in the Champions League final in Madrid, as the north Londoners look to lift their first-ever European trophy at the weekend.
Spurs were 3-0 down on aggregate with just 40 minutes to go in their second leg against Ajax, before Lucas Moura silenced Amsterdam with a fantastic hat-trick. They have knocked out some genuine heavyweights on the road to Madrid and Mauricio Pochettino will aim for glory on Saturday.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have enjoyed the edge over Tottenham in the Premier League this season and for that reason go into the game as favourites.
Harry Kane, Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen have all joined in the training session as they progress with their rehabilitation.
Harry Winks has undergone groin surgery and remains doubtful for the Champions League final.
Probable Tottenham XI
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Hugo Lloris (GK)
Lloris’ form has fluctuated throughout the season but he’ll be aiming to finish the campaign with the Champions League trophy.
Kieran Trippier (RB)
Trippier has had a poor season according to his standards. Yet, he’ll be preferred ahead of Aurier at right-back.
Toby Alderweireld (CB)
One of the best centre-backs in the Premier League, Alderweireld will have to be at his best to keep the Liverpool attackers at bay.
Jan Vertonghen (CB)
Vertonghen has been a rock at the back for Spurs over the last few years and he’ll aim to contain the Reds on Saturday.
Danny Rose (LB)
Rose has been Spurs’ first-choice left-back since the second half of the season. He’ll keep his place in the team.
Victor Wanyama (CM)
Wanyama has struggled since returning from injury but with Spurs needing steel and aggressiveness in the middle of the park, the Kenyan could be handed a start in the Champions League final.
Moussa Sissoko (CM)
Sissoko offers the energy, drive and power from midfield and is expected to partner Wanyama in central midfield.
Christian Eriksen (RW)
Eriksen has blown hot and cold this season. Regardless of his form, the Dane is one of the most important players for Pochettino.
Dele Alli (CAM)
Alli will have a very important role to play on Saturday. His ability to link up play between the midfield and attack could determine Spurs’ fate.
Son Heung-min (LW)
Among the club’s best players this season, Son has to keep his place if Spurs are to have a chance of winning the Champions League.
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Lucas Moura (ST)
Even if Kane is deemed fit for the final, Pochettino will go with Lucas up front. The Brazilian single-handedly helped Spurs beat Ajax in the semi-finals and could wreak havoc against Liverpool as well.
[Image] Matip to partner Van Dijk? – Predicted 4-3-3 Liverpool XI to face Tottenham in the Champions League final
Liverpool vs Tottenham Predictions: Liverpool Line-up
The Champions League final will be an all-English affair for the first time in over a decade when Liverpool take on Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on June 1.
The Reds reached the Champions League final last season but ended up losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in the showpiece as they failed to win any silverware. They will be favourites to win the final after finishing second in the Premier League and beating Tottenham twice this season.
Tottenham, who have never won the European Cup or Champions League before, will be aiming to do the unthinkable next month.
Naby Keita looks set to miss out on the Champions League final, there is hope Roberto Firmino will be available.
Probable Liverpool XI
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Alisson is the Reds’ first-choice keeper and should be in goal against Tottenham.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB)
The youngster has enjoyed an excellent 2018/19 season. He will be hoping to end it on a strong note at the weekend.
Joel Matip (CB)
The Cameroonian has been a rock in the past couple of months and deserves to keep his place in the team.
Virgil van Dijk (CB)
A colossus at the back, Van Dijk is an irreplaceable cog in the team and is certain to start in the Champions League final.
Andy Robertson (LB)
Arguably the best left-back in England this season, Robertson will be a big threat down the left flank. He is expected to be a part of Liverpool’s backline.
The Brazilian has settled in well after a tough start to life in England and he should start in the biggest game of the season.
Jordan Henderson (RCM)
Henderson was fantastic against Liverpool and he deserves to keep his place in the team.
Georginio Wijnaldum (LCM)
Wijnaldum played a pivotal role in beat Barcelona and guiding the Reds to the final of the competition. The Dutchman will complete Klopp’s midfield trio.
Mohamed Salah (RW)
The Egyptian will be eager to make a mark in Madrid and help Liverpool win their sixth Champions League trophy.
Sadio Mane (LW)
The Senegalese international has already proved his ability to make an impact this season. On his day, he is unstoppable and Liverpool fans will hope that day is on June 1.
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Roberto Firmino (ST)
Firmino isn’t yet 100% fit but there is hope the Brazilian will be ready ahead of the game. His presence in the team is crucial as Klopp looks to win his first trophy as a Liverpool manager.
4 Key Passes, 7 duels: This Tottenham powerhouse was one of the architects of dramatic comeback vs Ajax
Spurs Opinion: Dele Alli was one of the architects of the remarkable comeback at Ajax alongside star man Lucas Moura
It was incredible scenes at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on Wednesday night, as Spurs produced a miraculous comeback to stun Ajax 3-2 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals to progress to the finals on the virtue of away goals rule.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side set up an all-English showdown with Liverpool in the final scheduled to be held at the Wanda Metropolitano on the 1st of June.
Tottenham’s remarkable comeback sparked by Lucas Moura’s second-half hat-trick ensured that the Champions League final was going to be contested between two English teams for the first time since 2007-08 when Man United beat Chelsea on penalties in the finals at Moscow to lift the cup.
Spurs needed to be at their best to give themselves a chance of halting Ajax’s fairytale run in the Champions League and it was always going to be an uphill task for them to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.
Away from home in front of a hostile crowd at the Amsterdam Arena and without the services of Harry Kane, Spurs faced an overly tough challenge, which was made a near-impossible one by first-half goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech.
The Lilywhites looked rattled against an energetic and hungry Ajax side, who showed plenty of desire and determination to press their opposition off the ball. Kieran Trippier’s nightmarish outing at the back allowed the home side plenty of joy and the tie looked all but sealed even before half-time, with Ajax leading 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate.
However, things took a complete U-turn in the second half. Spurs managed to pull their socks up and came out with a point to prove, showing more intent and purpose in the first 15 minutes after the interval to bring the tie back to life.
Lucas Moura’s quickfire brace in a space of just three minutes prior to the hour mark allowed Spurs to draw level on the night, though Ajax still had a 3-2 lead on aggregate.
Hakim Ziyech had multiple opportunities to put the tie to bed but the Moroccan hit the post once and fired his shot agonisingly wide on another occasion, while Hugo Lloris produced a sharp save to keep out his third attempt.
As the game wore on, it looked as if Ajax were going to make it to the finals, despite Spurs putting up a brave fight, but Moura completed his hat-trick in the 96th minute to put his name down in the history books of the competition.
The Brazilian’s stoppage-time heroics should endear him to the hearts of the fans at north London and few can deny that he has been a key contributor for Spurs with his goals and assists.
Well, it was Moura, who was the undisputed star in Spurs’ remarkable comeback, but in all honesty, Spurs stepped their game up as a team in the second half and managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
While Moura was the star of the show, Dele Alli’s contribution throughout the game should also be recognised, as the Englishman was not only the provider on two occasions but he was arguably Spurs’ most influential presence in the midfield alongside Eriksen.
Going back to the first half, Alli created a gilt-edged chance for Heung-min Son with a delightful pass, only for the Korean to fire his shot straight at the goalkeeper. Alli himself should have scored in the first half when Eriksen played him into a great position but he scuffed his finish and the chance went begging.
In the second half, prior to Lucas Moura’s goals before the hour mark, it was Alli, who had the first real chance to get Spurs back into the game. Eriksen once again played him in behind the backline but Alli’s effort was kept out by a fine save from Andre Onana.
Alli, though, finally made amends to set up Moura’s first goal when he danced his way through the defenders to lay the ball in the Brazilian’s path. And he also bagged the assist for Moura’s injury-time winner, setting the Brazilian up with a slick pass after Llorente had flicked it on.
The 23-year-old registered a total of 29 passes at an accuracy percentage of 76.3, including 2 assists, 2 dribbles and 4 key passes, while winning 7 out of 21 duels on the night. Defensively, he was no slouch either, registering 2 key tackles. He did miss a chance in the first half, but barring that, he was absolutely phenomenal.
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Spurs next play host to Everton in the final match week of the Premier League on Sunday and Mauricio Pochettino’s side will head into the game high on confidence after this remarkable performance.
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