Liverpool won a game that will be talked about for generations – a Europa League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund that will live forever in the memory of all at Anfield.
Emotion. Drama. Excitement. Brilliant football. Noise. Colour. And all this even before Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren rose high at the far post in front of The Kop in injury time to secure a 4-3 victory that will rank alongside the great dramas staged at this sporting theatre.
It was played out to the backdrop of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s almost crazed touchline demeanour and the young coach who succeeded him at Borussia Dortmund, the gifted and wonderfully dignified Thomas Tuchel.
Liverpool moved a step closer to earning a place in the Champions League by winning what some regard as Europe’s second-rate pot – not a label anyone was attaching to it after this classic.
When Klopp was introduced as Liverpool manager as successor to sacked Brendan Rodgers in October, he revealed one of his priorities was to “turn doubters into believers”.
And it was the transition from doubt to belief that was at the core of this remarkable Liverpool victory, both on the pitch and in the stands. If there was a trace of doubt this result would not have happened.
In nine blistering minutes from the first whistle, this wonderful Borussia Dortmund side simply tore Liverpool apart, with two goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – it was a time for doubts but Klopp delivered inspiration.
Liverpool needed three goals, leaving Klopp to invoke the spirit of Istanbul and the Champions League Final won from 3-0 down at half-time against AC Milan in 2005, saying: “Even if it is not likely it is possible, so we should try.”
And yet this was a mountain Liverpool had to try to climb twice, Divock Origi opened the door but Marco Reus shut it again to leave three goals needed in 33 minutes.
It was time for believers, time for that notion Klopp talked about within minutes of walking into Anfield to be acted upon. And it was as Liverpool completed a turnaround that will become a touchstone for the Klopp era with goals from Philippe Coutinho, Mamadou Sakho and the late drama from Lovren.
Borussia Dortmund possessed class in abundance and that opening phase was jaw-dropping – but Liverpool simply broke them by sheer force of will and a refusal to give up.
It takes us back to more words from Klopp. After Liverpool lost 2-1 to Crystal Palace at Anfield in November he was taken aback at supporters leaving early, saying it made him feel alone and adding: “We decide when it’s over.”
This was a phrase that could have been stamped on the foreheads of Liverpool’s players on Thursday – a symbol of the Klopp approach that will be at the heart of everything they do.
If anyone entered Anfield as a doubter they will have been a confirmed and committed believer by the time they left.
Anfield high on emotion
This night had a special feel even in the hours before kick-off as Anfield was splashed in colour, the yellow and black flags of Borussia Dortmund facing off against the red and white of Liverpool on The Kop.
Before the teams emerged, Anfield was serenaded by arguably the longest version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” ever heard at the stadium, Gerry Marsden’s voice turned off and Liverpool’s supporters taking over, the old anthem returning several times after a brief silence.
A minute’s silence to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 supporters died was perfectly observed, Anfield a cauldron of emotions.
It was Liverpool who looked the more nervous side in the opening stages, cut to pieces by high-class opponents who were not intimidated by the searing atmosphere.
Slowly, after a brief and shocked lull caused by a 2-0 deficit, the sound came back to deafening volume and Borussia were unnerved to the point where their resolve was broken.
Klopp was a man possessed on the touchline, waving his arms to demand greater encouragement for his players, pointing at his mouth while facing the fans to demand even more noise. It ended up providing a soundtrack to a momentous night.
Tuchel said: “When Liverpool equalised you noticed the change. There was belief in the stadium and a feeling it was meant to be. Both sets of fans were fantastic and that was one of the best atmospheres ever at a football match.”
Klopp added: “It was brilliant, outstanding, emotional, everything. I will not forget it because it was special. I know this is a place for big football moments. We didn’t start these stories but it is now our responsibility to try and write some more nice stories.”
There was certainly a new, unlikely chapter written at Anfield last night.