Defeat has never tasted better. Liverpool went down 4-2 on the night thanks to two late goals from Radja Nainggolan but by then the tie was already effectively over. Our destiny had already been fulfilled. An early strike from Sadio Mané had calmed the nerves before a bizarre James Milner own goal gave the Italians a glimmer of hope. Once Gini Wijnaldum scored the second away goal though, the contest was essentially over. It was a night for the ages. One we shall not soon forget. What did we learn though from this ever so special night?
Gini in a Bottle
The law of averages suggested to us that surely at some point, Georginio Wijnaldum would score away from Anfield in a competitive game. I even witnessed this rare feat with my own eyes back in pre-season as Gini scored away at Hertha Berlin in a friendly. By chance, that goal was also scored at the Olympic Stadium. Perhaps he only can score at Anfield and at former Olympic sites? I will take it.
Anyway, the truth is that his first goal away from friendly home confines could not have come at a better time. The team badly needed a boost after Milner’s unfortunate own goal. The Dutchman has been outstanding over the two legs filling in for the in form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the goal was reward for what has been at times a difficult season for Wijnaldum.
Sadio Mané has often been the least heralded of the fabulous front three but last night he unquestionably took centre stage. He was a menace from the outset for the Roma backline and his well taken goal was massive in the context of the tie and calming many of our worries. His ability to step up when the team needs him most is always impressive.
It is no easy feat for opposing managers to game plan for our forwards. Realistically you cannot afford to overload and double team any of them as that is bound to leave space for the others to exploit. We can only hope that this unsolvable unit can continue to thrive for one more night in Kiev!
All season long we have seen why this Liverpool side is becoming so special. There are no egos in this squad and that is evident with how not only they play with each other but also the relationship with the supporters. We can thank Jurgen Klopp for creating this environment thanks to smart personnel choices. The role of the manager cannot be understated when attempting to create this type of camaraderie.
Simon Mignolet for example would be well within his rights to feel a little vexed that he lost his starting spot but he has in reality been the perfect teammate ever since. Mo Salah still seems to be as grounded as ever despite the dizzy heights he has hit this season and there was of course the concern that Roberto Firmino might not have felt quite as happy without his good friend Philippe Coutinho around. Turns out there was no reason to be worried in the slightest.
It is incredibly easy to get behind this team for these reasons. They are a fun and genuine group who play some of the most exciting brand of football I have ever seen. What is not to love?
Real Madrid are going for their third straight Champions League title for a good reason. They are experts at winning big matches. They may not be in scintillating form this season but they have clawed their way back to the summit of European football and will not be willing to relinquish their crown without a fight.
They will be favorites for good reason. However, we can go into the game with no fear. Everybody expects Real to win so the pressure is on the champions to justify their favorites tag. I personally cannot wait for the final, it is going to be a very special occasion.
If you would have asked me 12 months ago if we’d be in a Champions League final again I would never have believed you. I always thought that anything is possible with Jurgen Klopp but even this scenario seemed implausible especially so soon. But here we are. Two of the giants of European football going head to head once again. Can it just be May 26th already?