Road to Madrid 2019
Liverpool: The Journey to Redemption
By Olawale Agbede
The 2018 Champions League final had Liverpool collapse to an era-defining Real Madrid side who won their third straight title at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev Ukraine. Gareth Bale’s thunderous strike, coupled with a couple of disgraceful goalkeeping, sealed the fate of Liverpool and its supporters who endured a horrible evening with captain Jordan Henderson in tears at full time.
Star player Mohamed Salah collided with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and could no longer continue in the first half, while goalkeeper Loris Karius had a night to forget. Not many though, thought that Jurgen Klopp and his men would be back at the first time of asking.
In the summer, Karius was disposed of and in came the Brazilian goalkeeper,Alisson Becker, along with a new sense of belief.
Liverpool who finished fourth in their last league campaign were drawn alongside French League champions, Paris Saint-Germain in group C of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, along with Italian powerhouse Napoli and Red Star Belgrade.
Named the group of death of the competition, Liverpool progressed with nine points winning their three games at Anfield and losing all three away games to finish as group runners up. Level on points with Napoli at the end of the group phase only advancing on aggregate rules, few fancied Jurgen Klopp’s team to repeat their heroics of the previous edition as they were stripped of their favorite tag.
Liverpool were paired against perennial German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in the round of 16, and after a goalless draw at Anfield, even the most loyal of their supporters were afraid going to the Allianz Arena. With a then fierce Premier League battle going on with Manchester City, the Liverpool faithful urged Klopp to focus on winning the country’s number one football prize even at the expense of the Champions League. However, it was in Klopp’s native Gemany Liverpool will produce one of its best performances of the competition with a resounding 3-1 win over Bayern Munich, a result which sent a statement to the rest of Europe about their ambitions in the Champions League.
After beating Bayern, Liverpool were paired with Portuguese giants FC Porto in the quarterfinals. If beating Bayern was impressive, Liverpool displayed their most dominant performance over two legs in the competition against Porto, with a comfortable 6-1 win on aggregate, 2-0 at Anfield and 4-1 away in Portugal.
After dispatching Porto, the Reds’ reward was a semi-final clash with Spanish giants Barcelona. The first leg had the genius of Lionel Messi inspiring the Catalans to a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou. Most sides will give up after a 3-0 deficit; not Liverpool. With star players, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino out due to injury, Liverpool were facing an enormous task to overturn the first leg disadvantage.
Barcelona were favourites as Liverpool’s fate in the competition hung by a thread. However, on the 7th of May, Liverpool created one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history. Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum scored two goals each as they cruised past Barcelona in a match that sent social media wild. Liverpool scored four and did not concede causing a shock of epic proportions.
In the finals await Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur, a team led by Mauricio Pochettino that were given little chance of a final appearance but improved as the competition progressed despite injuries to talisman, Harry Kane.
Finals are tough and Tottenham will come prepared. However, Liverpool’s journey in the Champions League this season is nothing short of a fairy tale, from unconvincing group stage performances to dominant and miraculous results.
Klopp has lost six finals in a row, including two in the Champions league and with disappointment from last season’s final and the premier league title loss to Manchester City this season, the Kops can only believe in themselves to secure redemption in Madrid.
As in the words of Paddy Considine, “I have to believe there’s redemption in the darkest of circumstances; otherwise it’s too bleak for me.”