Liverpool stun Borussia Dortmund with comeback win

Four second-half goals brings back memories of Istanbul success at Anfield

 

Liverpool 4 Borussia Dortmund 3 (Liverpool win 5-4 on aggregate)

Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool have their Istanbul moment. Two nil and 3-1 down to a hugely impressive Borussia Dortmund side, they produced one of the finest European comebacks since well, their great comeback in the 2005 Champions League final, to knock the favourites out of the Europa League courtesy of Dejan Lovren’s injury-time header.

Liverpool had never lost to German opposition in 17 European ties but that record appeared certain to end on 18 as Dortmund raced into an early lead and looked in total control. Instead, the Anfield club fought back superbly through Divock Origi, Philippe Coutinho, Mamadou Sakho and finally Lovren. Dortmund were devastated, Klopp ecstatic.

Thomas Tuchel’s innate confidence at the pre-match press confidence was no act. “We don’t want to score one, but two, maybe more. We want to attack and to take risks,” he proclaimed. Dortmund proved as good as their coach’s word.

After 246 seconds the visitors were ahead on the night and ahead in the tie through Henrikh Mkhitaryan. After nine minutes they were two goals up through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Ahead of the 27th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster on Friday, when Anfield will host its annual memorial service for the final time, both the Kop and the Dortmund section paid tribute to those who died with mosaics that read simply “96”. A minute’s silence was observed and then the atmosphere returned with an intensity that had begun long before kick-off, when fans and flares filled Anfield Road in scenes reminiscent of those during Liverpool’s 2014 title challenge as the team coach pulled in. “It’s my first time that I have seen something like this,” remarked Klopp. “It’s a good start to the night.” But it went downhill rapidly.

This was the kind of contest the Liverpool manager typically relishes, not only in terms of noise levels, emotion and significance but in the challenge of eliminating a side that arrived at Anfield unbeaten in 2016. “If your opponents are better,” he said at the start of his Liverpool tenure, “you have to bring them to your level and then you can kill every team.”

Killing Dortmund’s dream of completing the full set of European trophies required a repeat of the complete team performance Liverpool produced in Germany, and no weak links. Their manager opted for a more adventurous line-up, favouring the threat of Roberto Firmino to the stability of Joe Allen in central midfield with Jordan Henderson out injured, but it only suited Liverpool’s game when two goals down. James Milner floundered in central midfield and with only Emre Can alongside in support instead of the three-man centre favoured in the first leg, Dortmund broke far too easily.

After sustained pressure from the start the visitors cancelled out Liverpool’s away goal from a clinical counter-attack. Coutinho gave away possession with a loose pass behind Firmino and his furious reaction signalled danger, even with the mistake coming in Dortmund’s half. Mkhitaryan released Shinji Kagawa, the former Manchester United man found Gonzalo Castro and he floated a lovely ball over Sakho to Aubameyang. Simon Mignolet produced a superb save from the African player of the year’s close-range volley but Mkhitaryan was on hand to convert the rebound. Sakho’s failure to play the offside trap was costly.

Liverpool needed to settle. Instead, they found themselves further behind before they could find a rhythm. In was, in fairness, a stunning second goal. Marco Reus ghosted away from two tame challenges in midfield and threaded a fine, inch-perfect pass behind Sakho for Aubameyang. The Gabon international took one touch, then drilled his second into the near top corner of Mignolet’s net for his 37th goal in 44 games for Dortmund this season.

Liverpool’s response would be the one encouragement they could take from a trying evening. Failure to take one of several presentable chances before the interval was one of the regrets. Mats Hummels produced an important block when Origi met Adam Lallana’s cross for the home side’s first opening of the second leg.

Alberto Moreno sliced horribly wide when meeting Origi’s cross unmarked at the back post, Lallana completely miscued on the turn in front of goal and both the young Belgium striker and Firmino headed wide. No shots on target in the first half from Liverpool was in stark contrast to Dortmund’s ever-present threat.

Origi claimed reward for his tireless display and Liverpool’s refusal to cower moments after the restart. Another fine goal it was too as Can exchanged passes with Milner and Firmino before releasing the 20-year-old behind the Dortmund defence to finish convincingly beyond Roman Weidenfeller.

Anfield stirred for a great escape but poor defending from Nathaniel Clyne punctured the mood when he was caught square as Hummels advanced and played in Reus, who beat Mignolet with a measured finish into the far corner. Then it was back on again as Coutinho played a one-two with Milner and found the bottom corner of the Kop goal from 20 yards.

Liverpool had time and the frenzied atmosphere to turn the tie around. Remarkably, they drew level with a third with 12 minutes remaining when Coutinho’s corner bounced through a crowded area and Sakho nodded home. Dortmund looked exhausted, their exhilarating start a distant memory, and Lovren left them devastated when he headed in at the far post in the first minute of injury time.

(Guardian service)

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