It has been over a week since Liverpool lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League Final. The Red’s were so close to capping off a magic European journey by bringing home number 6. Obviously, the immediate feeling after the game amongst Liverpool fans was that of sadness, anger and disappointment. But those feelings have not lasted.
A week after losing the biggest game in club football the morale around the club couldn’t be higher. This team is on the rise and playing in the Champions League Final is only the beginning.
Liverpool stood toe-to-toe with this competitions greatest team ever and not once did it look like they were up against it. A few freak moments were the only difference. Mohamed Salah’s injury, Loris Karius’ two errors and Gareth Bale’s once in a lifetime goal were the only things that separated the two sides. And now with the revelation that Karius received a concussion early in the second half makes it even worse.
Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Real Madrid did not win that game because they were the better team on the day, they won because of a bizarre string of events that all happened at the same time. Never have any of us seen a game or will ever see another game like that ever again.
Liverpool didn’t look out of their depth in the game. For the first half an hour before Salah came off they proved that they can hang with Europe’s best. And I honestly believe if Salah doesn’t come off injured that Liverpool would be 6 time European Champions right now.
But no matter how depressing and disappointing the loss was, it’s been one hell of a ride. Starting all the way back in August with the qualifier against Hoffenheim when Liverpool won 6-3 in an impressive display over the two legs. Two forgettable draws in the group stage against Sevilla and Spartak Moscow were followed up by two memorable 7-0 wins as Liverpool topped Group E scoring 23 goals in 6 games.
The goals continued to flow in the next round as the Reds put 5 past Porto at the Estadio do Dragao. The Portuguese side were unbeaten in 20 league games at that point and many predicted a difficult task for Liverpool, but the tie was over before the second leg kicked off.
The best team in the country headed to Anfield next as Liverpool took on Manchester City. This game was the personification of a European night at Anfield. The coach greeting before kick off set up the stage for a magical night. Before the game, many underplayed the significance that the atmosphere could play, and boy were they left feeling stupid. Anfield was rocking and City didn’t know what hit them. World-class players were knocking the ball out of play and looking at each other in shock as to why they were playing so poorly. After 30 minutes, the soon to be Premier League Champions were down 3-0 in a game where everyone expected them to win with ease. The power of Anfield on European nights was in full force that day for all to see.
Back at the Etihad a week later in the second leg City took the lead in the first minute setting doubt in the fans heads, leaving them asking “oh no not again.” City pressed on, looking the more likely of the two sides to get the next goal, but in 56th minute Salah dinked one over Ederson, putting the tie beyond City’s reach. Roberto Firmino added one for good measure and not only did Liverpool go through, but they won both games. 5-1 was the aggregate score. The English Champions were left shaking in their boots as Jürgen’s men stormed past them.
An absolute madness of a semi-final was next. Roma, who had just completed an astonishing comeback in the previous round against Barcelona, entered the tie with their heads up high as they prepared for their first semi-final since 1984. Another opposition many said Liverpool would struggle against, another opposition Liverpool absolutely demolished, sort of. Salah, against his former club, scored two brilliant goals before halftime to give Liverpool the lead and a Sadio Mané goal and a Firmino double gave the Reds a 5-0 lead. 2 late goals by Edin Džeko and Diego Perotti made things a little more interesting going into the second leg. The scoreline struggles it was a close call at 7-6 and although there were some scary moments, Liverpool well and truly dominated the tie. And for the first time since 2007, Liverpool were heading to the European Cup Final.
The scenes after the final whistle were like nothing I had ever seen before. Players and fans celebrating as one. Both as excited as the other to take this great club to the pinnacle of club football once again. And as the fans sung and the players cheered on you got this feeling that something special was about to happen.
Obviously, this journey didn’t have the magical ending we all dreamed, but it signaled the start of something special and making the Champions League Final was just the beginning.
Liverpool set the Champions League ablaze playing some of the best football the competition has ever seen and broke records left, right, and centre in the process. Mané’s goal in the final was the teams 47th, the most by a team in a single campaign. Liverpool’s 7-0 against Maribor in Slovenia is the biggest away win in Champions League history. James Milner broke the record for most assists in a campaign with 9 and Liverpool are the first team to have 3 different players score 10 goals; with Salah, Firmino, and Mané all reaching double digits.
Those saying that making it to the final without winning doesn’t mean anything, or that Liverpool under Klopp have flopped because he hasn’t won a trophy yet are completely wrong. Progression can be made without winning trophies, although trophies are obviously the end goal. 3 years ago Liverpool’s last game of the season was a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Stoke. This year the last game of the season was the Champions League Final, something even the most optimistic of Liverpool fans would have said would never happen 3 years ago.
A few years ago, Brendan Rodgers had to make Steven Gerrard personally call Toni Kroos to ask him to join Liverpool and now players are lining up to play under Klopp. The likes of Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert were the calibre of players the club were purchasing, now it’s Naby Keïta and Fabinho.
Over a week after a Champions League Final loss and the mood around the club is the best it’s been in a long, long time. Liverpool are back among the European elite and they are here to stay. It is an exciting time to be a Liverpool supporter. And with Keïta and Fabinho already coming in this summer and Nabil Fekir and possibly a new top-level goalkeeper rumoured to be joining them, Klopp is building a squad capable of challenging in every competition. Now it’s time for the players to go away for a bit, regroup, and come back better and more motivated than ever before.
On this run, we made memories that will last a lifetime and although the night may have ended in tears in Kiev, you get the sense that sooner rather than later those tears of sadness will turn to tears of joy.