Liverpool 4 – Borussia Dortmund 3 (5-4 On Aggregate) Match Report & Analysis

Making Sense Of The Madness

Where do you start with a game like that? What do you say about a game like that? I’ll start by letting you read the few words I managed to write at half-time:

”Like seeing an ex who you left because they were letting themselves go, only for them to turn up six months later looking toned and spectacular, Jurgen Klopp must have watched the way his old side took Liverpool apart in the first half at Anfield and wondered if he’d made a terrible mistake.

Finger hut / shutterstock.com

Finger hut / shutterstock.com

For all that Dortmund fizzed the ball about with purpose and intelligence during the first 30 minutes of the game, it was yet again an example of Liverpool seeming to be determined to be the authors of their own downfall this time in the UEFA Cup quarter-final against Klopp’s former side. The Reds were slow, ponderous, quick to give the ball away and slow to react against a team that looked like swarming bees determined to sting us at every opportunity.”

After ten minutes of last night’s game I feared I’d be watching the Reds get embarrassed. I was wondering if it would even be worth writing a match report seeing as no one would want to read about Liverpool having their pants pulled down by a superior team. If Dortmund felt they didn’t play to their full potential in the first leg they showed up at Anfield determined to prove just how good they were.

And they were really, really good. Let’s not let the result overshadow the fact that the German side were a class act. They’re probably the best team I’ve seen in the flesh at Anfield in recent times and they’re definitely the fastest. They were absolutely electric.

They sliced Liverpool open time and again, with the reality being that Dortmund heading into the interval with a three or even four goal lead might not have been too flattering for them. They came to Anfield determined to prove they were better than the team we saw at the Westfalenstadion and boy oh boy did they do that, not only for the first ten minutes but, arguably, for the first hour.

Getting The Set-Up Wrong?

It’s easy after the fact to say that Jurgen Klopp got his set-up wrong to begin with, and plenty of people on Twitter and inside the ground were doing just that. It looked to me that he sent a team out that could graft, work, frustrate and cut-off supply lines rather than create and worry Dortmund. Firmino has produced moments of magic this season, but above all else he’s been one of the chief closers and pressers from the centre of the park.

almonfoto / shutterstock.com

almonfoto / shutterstock.com

Before the game you’d say that James Milner might not be the man you’d turn to when you need a moment of inspiration, yet he’s a workhorse like virtually no other in the Liverpool team. Divock Origi might not be the natural finisher that Daniel Sturridge is, but his constant running and harassing is why he’s been selected ahead of the England striker for two games in a row in this competition.

When you send a team out to frustrate and strangle the opposition and said opposition scores two goals within eight minutes of the match kicking off, what do you do? Is there any guarantee that Dortmund wouldn’t have done exactly the same thing had Joe Allen started the game? And if the circumstances had been the same would you rather be sending Firmino or Lallana on to replace Allen in the hope that the situation can be salvaged, or is Allen not the ideal player to do what we did last night?

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s the only vision that is truly 20/20, but for most it was pretty much the team they noted only expected to see before kick-off but wanted to see. Maybe some would have rather seen Sturridge than Origi, but Origi was one of our best players. Perhaps Allen for Milner might have been the change others would have made, but Milner creates the winning goal. It’s easy to be right after the fact.

That’s not to suggest anyone was wrong in their criticism of Klopp at the ten minute or even halfway mark. The play on the pitch suggested that the manager got it wrong, but it was obviously never the intention to allow Dortmund to be so explosive at the start of the match. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that. As Klopp said himself, when you concede two goals in eight minutes the plan the players had been sent out with needs to be torn up and thrown in ‘the purple bin’.

It seemed clear that the Liverpool players’ heads went for ten to fifteen minutes. They didn’t know what they were supposed to do. But if Klopp makes a substitution after that short amount of time is it not tantamount to admitting he got it all wrong? Is it not a lack of faith in the players on the pitch? That they were able to re-group, create chances and even score a goal straight after the interval perhaps suggests that the manager was right to have faith in the lads he sent out on to the field. He asked for a response and the players, backed by the fans, responded.

The Myth Of Atmospheres

Most football supporters believe the followers of their team are the best in the world, so there’s no way this comment isn’t going to be loaded with favouritism and bias, but does any other English team produce that performance and get that response from their fans? Has any other English team had as many glorious nights of European football as we have? I’m not so sure.

The Kop in full flow

The Kop in full flow

There’s something of a myth about atmospheres and support in football. There’s no question that the atmosphere at Anfield has been dying a slow death in recent years, with every home supporter at Anfield now used to the cry of ‘Where’s your famous atmosphere?’ from the away supporters within about twenty minutes of the game kicking off. It’s true that our once famous atmosphere only gets dusted off and put on display every now and then, but how many Premier League grounds are seeing a flawless atmosphere week-in, week-out, exactly?

Much fuss was made of the atmosphere at Dortmund last week, with the famous ‘Yellow Wall’ talked of as one of the greatest sights in football. It’s true that it’s impressive to look at and it goes without saying that the Dortmund fans were in fine voice in the away section last night, too. Yet what they produce is one long, continuous drone. They are encouraged to sing and chant by a bloke with a megaphone and other people with a drum. What use is that when you need inspiration?

The Liverpool fans were stunned into silence when Dortmund displayed their footballing masterclass in the first half, trying to rouse themselves but struggling to get over the disappointment of being so completely and utterly humbled. Things changed at 2-1, though, with the roar from the Kop taken up by the rest of the ground with animalistic passion.

3-1 brought about a momentary set-back, but 3-2 saw things go up a gear. That was the moment I started to believe and I think that was when the players felt it too. The passion from the Liverpool fans was visceral; you felt like you could reach out and touch the noise and the elation. Give me that over a constant drone any day of the week.

Players across Europe will have been watching that game last night and they’ll be wanting to play for Jurgen Klopp and be part of his Liverpool revolution. But more than that they’ll be wanting to get the chance to experience a night like that just once in their lives. For all that the noise from the Liverpool supporters made Dortmund’s players shrink a little, it made the men in Red feel ten foot tall and who wouldn’t want to feel like that?

Chelsea and Manchester City have the money to buy the best players in the world, but they’ll never be able to buy an atmosphere like that. Not for us the plastic flags and forced fun of such soulless grounds as Stamford Bridge and The Etihad. Anfield rocked last night to the passion of over 40,000 voices wanting one thing: Victory.

The Kop Waving Flags

The Kop Waving Flags

When Anfield bounces like it did last night there’s no other stadium like it in the world. The Nou Camp and the Bernabéu might be bigger, but bigger doesn’t always mean better. The songs, the chants, the screams and the shouts made my bones shiver and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It got into my very soul and I shouted myself hoarse alongside everyone else.

Anfield on a European night is a place to be reckoned with. At 2-0 down we were out of the competition. At 3-1 down we were dead and buried. Dortmund had only conceded three or more twice this season before last night. Liverpool scored four in 45 minutes. Anfield on a European night is still under-estimated by some, even after all the years. Long may it continue. Nights like last night are why we do this. It’s why we’ll never walk alone.

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