Liverpool: It was "only" the Europa League, but it was breathtaking. The kind of football one wants to see in the Champions League. Borussia Dortmund's game against Liverpool kept millions of football fans on the edge of their seats worrying their pulse would go through the roof.
Liverpool players celebrate after scoring against Borussia Dortmund. Pic/ AFP
In the end it was a magical night for Juergen Klopp and Liverpool's never-say-die attitude on Thursday evening as Dortmund relinquished control of a game they seemed certain to win. After being 2-0 down at half time, the home team turned the match on its head to run out 4-3 winners (5-4 on aggregate/1-1 in the first leg) and made it into the semi-finals, reports Xinhua.
In the first leg, Dortmund's players seemed to be emotionally blocked as they faced their former coach Juergen Klopp for the first time with another team. Klopp, after seven years in Dortmund, is seen as a legend who reanimated a suffering club and won several titles. Klopp however came up with a brilliant masterplan to defuse Dortmund's talented midfielders and forwards with a three-man defensive midfield. The 48-year-old has made himself a hero among the British media.
This time around, Klopp and Liverpool intended to play a more open game, meaning LFC tried to advance to the next round by counterattacking as Dortmund's team has more quality when it comes to their forwards. And Klopp counted on the support of 45,000 ardent fans who did a fantastic job propelling their team to a stunning victory. Despite the better quality of their squad, Dortmund was squashed by Liverpool's passion. Klopp again showed his special quality as a "motivation monster" .
At first things did not work for Liverpool as wanted, at least not in the first half. It took only nine minutes for it to become obvious that the brave-hearted Liverpool team could not withstand Dortmund's attacking power. Hendrik Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had scored to put the Germans 2-0 up and in command. Now Liverpool was forced to open their game, something they don't like as the team's strength is to counter-attack.
Liverpool had no answer to Dortmund's domination. But never take Liverpool side like a piece of cake. After Origi's cut the deficit in the 48th minute (2-1), the famous Liverpool insanity came alive for a few minutes before Marco Reus struck back to restore Dortmund's two goal lead (3-1). Couthino's gave the Reds hope again in the 66th minute (3-2) and Sakho equalized on the night (3-3) in the 78th minute.
Anfield Road was by now a mad house willing their team to score an improbable fourth which they did when Lovren headed home (4-3) with three minutes of added time to go. But who actually scored the goal? As far is Jose Mourinho, the ex-Chelsea manager, is concerned it wasn't Lovren at all but Anfield. "It's the only arena I know that can score goals," he said. Dortmund defender Mats Hummels admitted: "We have been affected by the unique atmosphere."
For Dortmund, the defeat means they only have one more chance to win a title -- the German Cup in which Dortmund have reached the semi-finals. The race for the German title is lost as the current Bundesliga top dogs Bayern Munich is uncatchable. It might take a while to recover. Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel and his team will have to survive a difficult stress test in the next weeks as disappointment is mountain high. It was a lesson for the Germans.
For Liverpool and Klopp to have won such an extraordinary game means the German coach has a solid basis to go on developing his team next season when he intends to restructure and update his team as far as international quality is concerned. For Klopp and Liverpool's fans, having beaten Dortmund not only means a strong motivational boost, but the chance to win the Europa League and qualify for next season's Champions League through the back door.
For Germany's biggest tabloid "Bild", the duel between "The Reds" and Dortmund was not only a fight on the pitch but a fight to secure the services of the man that scored Germany's winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina, Mario Goetze. The 23-year-old is assumed to be on his way out of Bayern Munich at the end of the season despite having a contract until 2017 for assumedly 25 to 30 million euros. The forward has been unable to find a regular place in Bayern's team.
Most predictions indicate that Goetze could join Liverpool and his former Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp. But so far Klopp can't offer Goetze a start in an international competition, unless Liverpool manages to win the Europa League and qualifies for next season's Champions League. In the Premier League, Liverpool has little chance of qualifying for Europe's most important club competition. Schalke 04 defender Joel Matip has already decided to join Liverpool for the 2016/2017 season. Goetze could be next.
In contrast to Liverpool, Dortmund is already certain of qualifying for next season's Champions League event and might breathe down the neck of the big clubs. Dortmund's disadvantage in the race for Goetze are their fans, many of which can't forgive Goetze joining the club's rivals in 2013 for 37 million euros. Recently BVB fans showed a huge poster in Dortmund's arena telling Goetze, who for more than 12 years was wearing Dortmund's shirt, "Milan or Madrid, the main thing not Dortmund. Get lost Goetze."
Now Liverpool has shown it's might on the grass pitch in the Europa League and LFC fans can be sure, their club is not without chances in the race for Mario Goetze. Sometimes the trust a player feels with for a coach might be more attractive than to play safe in the Champions League with a club you can hardly find a way back to the fans' hearts.