Soccer

Power of Anfield won the night for Liverpool

12 May 2019 - 00:00 By telegraph

No one will forget the tears of James Milner. We have heard You'll Never Walk Alone sung with such ferocity and acclaim before, and opposing players being jeered into submission is a prerequisite on Liverpool's extraordinary European nights.
But the abiding memory of a precious evening at Anfield as Barcelona were blown away is of players and supporters openly weeping in victory. Of that communal, unrefined joy taking 52,000 fans and 14 exhausted participants on a tour through euphoria's peaks.
The debate will endure whether it was Anfield's greatest night. There have been none so affecting.
The crying epidemic rapidly spread, long before striking Liverpool's No 7. There is no mentally tougher player at the club than Milner. When he surrendered to the sound of the Kop, the traditional post-match hug from manager Jurgen Klopp was in danger of being mistaken for consolation.
Such a joyous expression may happen once in a sporting lifetime. "We will have to suffer," Klopp had warned before the first leg. He could not have known how much. The agony endured to reach the final is what makes it so overwhelming.
Milner's outpouring exposed the torment of the 3-0 defeat a week earlier. It revealed that inner dread of the latest season of brilliance ending with nothing, the vice-captain despairing of another hard luck story.
Whatever happens this weekend and in the Champions League final in Madrid on June 1, Liverpool will go again next season, but tangible reward for the past three years would be more desirable. After Manchester City's win against Leicester the night before, the season was on the precipice.
Such was the improbability of overturning a three-goal lead against a side including Lionel Messi, no matter how often players said they believed, they could not avoid being accused of issuing vacuous sound-bites.
The manager sensed this, making his role as remarkable as Rafael Benitez at half-time in the 2005 final against AC Milan in Istanbul, the last time a Liverpool team completed a comeback of comparable magnitude.
Of all the revelations post-match, it is the contradiction between what Klopp said publicly and privately that will most attract the chroniclers of this tie.
After defeat in the Nou Camp Klopp would barely entertain the idea of a comeback. At Anfield on the eve of the second leg, he struck a similar tone. There was no rallying cry. No Churchillian address. Klopp has never sounded so restrained.
Yet no sooner had the full-time whistle gone in Barcelona, Klopp was full of vigour in his own dressing room. We now know that at no point since Messi's free-kick to make it 3-0 did Klopp doubt the potent cocktail of an early goal, sustained pressure and the Kop's intensity could overwhelm the Spanish champions. That is because no matter what Barcelona had in Messi, Klopp was armed with something more. Anfield itself.
Klopp said it is hard to imagine Tuesday night's events transpiring anywhere else, the club's heart "pounding so much it could be heard over the world". He has tapped into Anfield's majesty.
"I saw the boys with tears in their eyes," said the manager. "You feel much more than others in these moments."
There were tears in another part of Anfield too, though not of delight.
Messi was inconsolable in the visiting dressing room as his dreams of a fifth European Cup died.
- © Telegraph Media Group Limited 2019..

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