What better way to remember the 96 men, women, and children who lost their lives 27-years ago in the Hillsborough disaster than to pull off one of Liverpool’s greatest comebacks in their rich European history.
Ok, this wasn’t no Istanbul, but Jurgen Klopp’s men had to come from two goals behind on two separate occasions to beat one of the most vibrant and vivacious teams in Europe.
Dortmund came into this tie on the back of an 18 match unbeaten streak and a desperate need to put things right. Their shoddy performance in the first leg at the Westfalenstadion gave Liverpool hope after Divock Origi secured that vital away goal.
However, the Germans aren’t shy in front of goal themselves. They have scored 69 goals in the Bundesliga, and in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they have one of the in-form strikers in Europe. The man from Gabon came into this tie having scored 23 goals in 27 Bundesliga games, and 11 in 13 Europa League ties.
So Dortmund was likely to score. Liverpool knew that. They were likely prepared for that. They weren’t prepared to be two goals down in the first eight minutes. Liverpool looked all over the place as the yellow and black Dortmund players buzzed around them like busy bees.
Philippe Coutinho gave the ball away at the back; Dortmund broke en masse, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan put the ball into the back of the net after a smart save by Simon Mignolet prevented that man Aubameyang from scoring his second goal of the tie.
Liverpool was stunned. It got worse two minutes later. Marco Reus powering through the Liverpool side from back to front before releasing Aubameyang, who slammed the ball into the roof of the net. Liverpool needed three goals to go through just like they did on that fateful night in Istanbul.
The two-goal cushion saw Dortmund step down a gear or two. Liverpool started to control the match, but they were still suspect at the back, especially on the flanks. Dortmund could have scored another two, but would have been happy to go into the break with their two-goal lead intact.
Liverpool needed a quick goal, and it took two minutes from the restart for that to happen. Emre Can playing some sweet football from the back before a delightful ball put Origi in on goal and the young Belgian repaid Klopp’s faith in him with a smart finish.
The roar of the Anfield crowd was deafening, but the Germans reacted in the greatest way possible 10-minutes later. It was another quick positional run from that man Reus, and he curled the ball into the back of the net to restore Dortmund’s two-goal lead, with the away goals also in their favour.
Liverpool once again needed three. Klopp reacted by throwing Joe Allen and Daniel Sturridge onto the pitch, and they immediately pushed Liverpool forward in search of goals. Seven minutes after Reus had hit the back of the net, the rather quiet Coutinho played a smart one-two on the edge of the box with James Milner before sending a cracking drive passed the Dortmund keeper to put Liverpool right back into the mix.
The one downer for Liverpool all night was their corner kicks. Milner had taken them all and hadn’t cleared the front post with any of them. In the 78th minute, he did the same thing, only this time the Dortmund team switched off; Mamadou Sakho made the yardage to hit that front post and head the ball past Roman Weidenfeller in the Dortmund goal.
It was 3-3 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate. The away goals rule meant Dortmund were going through. The game got scrappy. Substitutions were made. Time ebbed away, and before you knew it, we were in the 91st minute of 94 with James Milner standing over a free kick just inside the Dortmund half of the pitch. Daniel Sturridge panned wide, Milner slid the ball through, and sprinted into the box, Sturridge found him with a neat pass; he clipped the ball to the back post, and Dejan Lovgren climbed higher than anyone else to head the ball into the top corner of the net.
They had done it again.
They had achieved the impossible again.
They had scored three in 45-minutes when they needed to again.
And in two games time they could be in the UEFA Champions League courtesy of a Europa League win.
Here are the rest of the night’s results:
Shakhtar 4 v 0 Braga (Shakhtar win 6-1 on aggregate)
Sparta Prague 2 v 4 Villareal (Villareal win 6-3 on aggregate)
Sevilla 1 v 2 Athletico Bilbao (3-3 on aggregate. Seville win 5-4 pens).
Europa League Odds