A very short-handed Liverpool entered Tuesday with a huge task at hand, attempting to complete a three-goal comeback on Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals. And it did just that–and more.
An early goal from Divock Origi, two in a two-minute span in the second half from Georginio Wijnaldum and then another in the 79th minute from Origi brought the Reds all the way back to complete one of the competition's greatest comebacks ever on a magical night at Anfield. Liverpool, amazingly, will play for the Champions League title for a second straight year after falling to Real Madrid in 2018.
A goal from Luis Suarez and two from Lionel Messi in last week's first leg put Barcelona seemingly in full control heading into Tuesday's showdown. Making matters more difficult for Liverpool was that Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were ruled out with injuries, leaving Jurgen Klopp's attack without two of its most potent options on a day when it needed plenty of goals.
That mattered little Tuesday, though, as Liverpool gave a sense of deja vu for Barcelona, which has been on the wrong side of a three-goal Champions League comeback before. It was just last season that Roma battled back from 4-1 down in the first leg of the quarterfinals to stun Barcelona in the second leg in the Italian capital.
Liverpool, expectedly, came out aggessively, and it nearly scored in the opening minutes. Sadio Mane whipped in a cross from the left looking for Xherdan Shaqiri, and while the Swiss star couldn't turn the ball in, it was deflected out for an early corner.
The goal Liverpool was hoping to score to cement its dream start came a few minutes later. Origi, who scored the late winner vs. Newcastle to keep the Reds alive in the Premier League title race, put home a rebound after Jordan Henderson's initial shot was saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, putting Liverpool ahead 1-0 on the day and reducing the aggregate deficit to 3-1 just seven minutes in.
Barcelona's first threat came in the 14th minute, when Jordi Alba cut a cross back for Messi. His chance from 12 yards out and a left-sided angle was saved well by an acrobatic Alisson, who was beaten in that same upper left-hand corner by Messi's sensational free kick in the first leg.
Alisson was forced into another strong save in the 18th minute, denying Coutinho a goal on his return to Merseyside by diving to his left to push it away.
Off an ensuing corner kick, the ball wound up being redirected into Messi's path at the edge of the box, but the Argentine superstar hooked his left-footed chance just wide of the near post.
As both teams continued to push for potentially decisive goals on either end, Arturo Vidal became an increasingly more important presence. The veteran Chilean was immense in breaking up Liverpool's forays forward, and he gave up his body to block a long blast from Andrew Robertson before it could trouble ter Stegen.
Barcelona nearly scored a dagger of an away goal before halftime struck. It was Messi sending a pinpoint ball to Jordi Alba, timing the left back's diagonal run to perfection. Alisson, again, made the save, though, ensuring Liverpool's lifeline carried over into the second half.
Liverpool almost extended that lifeline in the 50th minute, when Virgil van Dijk nearly scored an outrageous goal off a corner kick. With his back to goal, van Dijk back-heel-volleyed a point-blank shot on frame, but ter Stegen not only made the save but collected the ensuing rebound.
On the other end on the sequence that followed, Alisson stopped a shot from Suarez, who was heckled throughout at his own stomping grounds. The Uruguayan star didn't get full power on his chance, allowing the goalkeeper to make the stop that kept his side in the tie.
That saved proved large two minutes later, when Liverpool got within a goal. It was Georginio Wijnaldum who came off the bench to deliver the strike, with his late, surging run through the box meeting Trent Alexander-Arnold's deflected cross. The Dutch midfielder powered home the finish to make it 3-2 on aggregate.
He brought Liverpool all the way back with his second, winning a header from Shaqiri's cross to the center of the box to beat ter Stegen, putting Liverpool up 3-0 on the day bringing the hosts level on aggregate at 3-3.
It got worse for Barcelona in the 79th minute off a shrewd corner kick. Alexander-Arnold feigned as if he were going to concede the corner to a teammate, but he quickly turned and took it, sending a pinpoint ball to Origi. The Belgian turned it home, with Barcelona's defense unaware and caught off guard, giving Liverpool a 4-3 aggregate lead.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Liverpool advances to the June 1 Champions League final in Madrid, where either Ajax or Tottenham will be waiting. Ajax holds a 1-0 aggregate lead over Tottenham heading into Wednesday's second leg in Amsterdam.