Klopp finds fate and Kop folklore with Liverpool turning around Dortmund
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | April 14, 2016
Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund
Liverpool win 5-4 on aggregate
- Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang strike early for Dortmund
- Origi brings Reds back into it early in second-half
- Reus restores Dortmund’s two-goal cushion before hour mark
- Coutinho on target with curler after one-two with Milner
- Sakho snatches equaliser from improvised corner
- Liverpool pull off improbable victory thanks to Lovren header
Reds rampant in revival to down deadly Dortmund
There’s been more than one comeback in Liverpool’s recent European history, but the Olympiakos exploits and recovery from 3-0 down to Milan in Istanbul were given a run for their money by an almost quixotic Europa League quarter-final second leg at Anfield.
Borussia Dortmund scored twice in the first eight-and-a-half minutes to surely silence the Kop. The Europa League favourites had turned around an away-goal deficit on the Reds from the first leg thanks to Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but like Lazarus the men from Merseyside came back from the dead in biblical fashion.
Divock Origi’s early second-half strike gave, to borrow from that famous Anfield hymn You’ll Never Walk Alone, hope in their hearts, but merely provoked Marco Reus into restoring Dortmund’s two-goal cushion.
Leading 3-1 and 4-2 on aggregate, there was certainly no way that Jurgen Klopp’s former club could fail to knock him out. Think again. A Philippe Coutinho curler and goals from Liverpool centre backs Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren sent them through to the semis with a 4-3 win on the night and 5-4 victory in the tie.
Night that rocked the Kop
Football’s gods, if you believe in such things, abandoned Klopp predecessor Brendan Rodgers and Kop idol Steven Gerrard with that untimely slip that cost the Reds a Premier League title around two years ago.
Ill-fortune was anywhere but Anfield on this night, however, as Dortmund’s surety and early exuberance were left withered by an incomprehensible result at half-time or even with 25 minutes to go in the tie.
Given a warning of their intentions by Aubameyang bending one wide on three minutes, the Reds fell behind during the next visiting attack. Although Simon Mignolet saved from the Gabon forward when found by a lofted Gonzalo Castro ball, Armenia international Mkhitaryan followed up with the rebound.
Aubameyang then got on the scoresheet when Coutinho cheaply ceded possession upfield, Dortmund countered swiftly and Reus’ through-ball allowed him to lash into the top corner at the near post.
Stunning start makes achievement all the more remarkable
Left shell-shocked by the sensational start of the Bundesliga boys, Liverpool’s response was to create a series of half openings and mere glimmers of goal.
Origi failed to take a first-half hat-trick of such chances before being presented with a clear-cut one three minutes after the interval. Emre Can set him free to slot past Roman Weidenfeller.
The Reds comeback was on, but not before Reus’ angled drive just around the hour mark when fed by Mats Hummels increased the enormity of the task even further. Klopp’s team now had to score three more on the night to progress.
And somehow, against all odds, against all logic, against all common sense, they managed it. Coutinho’s clever one-two with Reds skipper James Milner allowed the Brazil star to crack a curling effort in, but fate left it to centre halves to complete this most ridiculous of resurrections.
Dead balls helps to beat Borussia
Corner kicks and set-pieces in general had been poor throughout the night, yet supply from such situations had a huge hand in deciding the tie in Liverpool’s favour.
First, Coutinho’s near-post delivery found sub Daniel Sturridge and his clever flick in turn reached an unmarked Sakho to bundle the ball in from inside the six-yard box with 13 minutes of the regulation 90 left.
Not to be outdone by his defensive partner and with the tie level, but Dortmund advancing on away goals, Croatia centre back Lovren, whose time at Anfield has failed to see him live up to his pricetag through a loss of form and injuries, grabbed a decisive winner.
England colleagues Milner and Sturridge worked a free-kick routine down the right channel, with the latter crossing to the back post for Lovren to head home and send the Red half of Merseyside into raptures.
Topsy turvy tie among most memorable
Defensive discipline was pretty much non-existent at either end of the pitch here. Aubameyang raided the Liverpool penalty area with impunity throughout the early knockings, but what a crazy game football is with a World Cup winner like Hummels failing to marshal his own rearguard.
The Reds, caught cold by a clinical opening display from Dortmund on a night when Hillsborough was commemorated before kick-off, showed spirit, self-belief and resilience that defies description.
Detractors will talk of luck in extremis and Klopp is leading a charmed life as Rafael Benitez did during that 2004/05 run to the Champions League triumph in Turkey. They may have a point, but fortune favours and the brave and you make your own luck.
Klopp was bold enough to change his tactics when all seemed lost, employing of all things a midfield diamond that simply couldn’t get the Rodgers vintage over the line and deliver a Premier League trophy.
Perhaps Dortmund, their players and Klopp successor Thomas Tuchel thought the tie was over. Having seen this, who would bet against Liverpool now? Europa League glory surely beckons, and it is no accident that Coral now make the Merseysiders 7/4 favourites for this competition.
There’s much more about the Europa League over on Coral’s dedicated page.