THE Miracle of Anfield — widely considered the greatest comeback in UEFA Champions League history — lifted Liverpool to new heights on Tuesday night, vanquished Lionel Messi and his supporting act and cheered the spirits of millions around the world.
The Reds’ eye-catching show in the destruction of Barcelona helped the five-time champions to overturn a 0-3 first leg deficit on a night of high drama, great entertainment and bedlam in the stands as a hugely partisan Anfield crowd drove their team to new levels of excellence.
It was another amazing chapter to a Champions League campaign which has defied logic, with Manchester United overturning a 0-2 home leg defeat by beating Paris St-Germain 3-1 in Paris, to qualify for the quarter-finals, while Ajax Amsterdam also found a way to win at Real Madrid and Juventus, knocking both giants from the tournament.
Without their star forwards, the injured Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, Liverpool still found a way to score four goals through a double by Divock Origi and another brace from Georginio Wijnaldum, who came in as a substitute for the flying Andrew Robertson.
‘‘Kenny Dalglish said to a friend of mine after the match that it was the greatest European night in Anfield history,’’ Liverpool chairman Tom Werner said after the match.
‘‘I’m ecstatic and I’m so proud that Jurgen (Klopp) and the entire team played relentlessly and fearlessly for 90 minutes. Barcelona had Messi and Salah was unavailable, Barcelona had (Luis) Suarez and Firmino was unavailable. But, between our supporters and our players, we did the Impossible.
‘‘The last corner kick from Trent (Alexander-Arnold) was genius.’’
Klopp will guide Liverpool to their second successive Champions League final, becoming the first English side to do so in 10 years after Manchester United, and the German coach said it was a magical night.
“It’s 10 past 10, most of your children are probably in bed but these boys are f*****g talented giants. It’s unbelievable,’’ he told BT Sport.
“Fine me if you want. I’m not native so I don’t have better words for it. The whole game. The whole performance was too much. It was overwhelming. I watched in my life so many football games but I can’t remember many like this.
“Winning is already difficult but winning with a clean sheet? We played against maybe the best team in the world. I don’t know how the boys did it.
“I saw James Milner crying after the game on the pitch, it means so much to all of us.”
And, many of the top local coaches also watched the drama from Anfield with many of them saying they drew some important lessons from what unfolded in Liverpool.
Warriors coach, Sunday Chidzambwa, whose team will carry the underdogs’ tag in the 2019 AFCON opening encounter against hosts Egypt next month, said he was inspired by what Liverpool did even though he is a Manchester United fan.
“That was incredible. We learn every day and we picked that in football nothing is impossible,’’ said Chidzambwa. ‘
‘We must also have that mentality ahead of the AFCON and COSAFA Cup tournaments.
‘‘It all comes down to positivity.’’
Salah, who didn’t play on Tuesday night, is expected to lead the Pharaohs attack against the Warriors on June 21 in Cairo.
Chapungu coach Rodwell Dhlakama, whose side has enjoyed a flying start to the new Premiership campaign, said football now need players and coaches who are brave to take on the toughest of assignments and Liverpool have provided the template.
‘‘The biggest lesson is that fortune will always favour the brave, that mountain can be moved, character is the key to success and there is always a thin line between success and failure,’’ said the former Young Warriors coach.
‘‘The way Liverpool played this season alone is a true testimony that patience and belief can be key.’’
FC Platinum coach, Norman Mapeza, whose side are chasing a third straight domestic Premiership crown, said Liverpool showed there is no replacement for belief and perseverance.
“It was just about belief and perseverance from Liverpool,’’ he said.
Triangle coach, Taurai Mangwiro, Black Rhinos gaffer Herbert Maruwa and Herentals boss Kumbirai Mutiwekuziva all agreed there was no Mission Impossible in football.
“Treat every game as a new experience, with new challenges, and don’t sit in the past,’’ said Mangwiro.
‘‘It taught us about not despairing after setbacks. Liverpool looked at the positives they picked in their first leg in Spain, so looking at the positive is the way to go.’’
Maruwa said those who didn’t believe will always fail.
“Football is an art and it all comes down to belief. Liverpool showed that nothing is impossible in life and in the game,’’ he said.
‘‘Overturning a three-goal deficit looked impossible, looked difficult at half-time when the home team were leading 1-0 but with a positive attitude, everything fell into place.
‘‘I think we should learn from that as coaches.”
The Liverpool heroes were hailed for their “stupendous” and “impossible” comeback.
‘‘Do not adjust your reality. This really is happening. There have been glorious, entirely improbable games in Liverpool’s European history, including the mind-bending highs of Istanbul,” said The Guardian newspaper.
“But this was something else, an effort of will that, frankly, took the breath away. On a rapturous night, Liverpool’s season of chasing to the end narrowed first to a fine point, then burst into the most extravagant life as a 1-0 half-time lead against Barcelona became two, then three, then four.
“With 79 minutes gone, the most celebrated team of the modern age had been reduced to a bunch of mooching, stumbling yellow-shirted spectators.”
For the Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel, it was better than Liverpool’s comeback in Istanbul from 0-3 down against AC Milan to win the Champions League final in 2005.
“At the end of this wonderful, unbelievable, fantastical game, Jurgen Klopp linked arms with his players, facing The Kop as the whole of Anfield, including some among the bereft Catalan enclave, sung ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’,” he wrote.
“One had the feeling this was the moment he had been working towards since the day he set foot on Merseyside. This spirit. This togetherness. This performance. This passion, this emotion: it was all here, every last drop of what he wanted to achieve.’’
The Telegraph said Liverpool’s success could be written in the stars. – Sports Reporter/AFP/BT Sport.