A night of despair for Liverpool in Barcelona means a fantastic season could end trophy-less. Dave Tindall searches for a happy ending and picks out the positives in probably the most melancholic Red Letter yet….
I was never going to sleep well after that!
And so, with the early morning traffic just kicking into gear, I’m trying to work through the sadness by scrawling down my thoughts from last night.
Firstly, I didn’t have nightmares about Lionel Messi’s free-kick. Nightmares are about nasty things. His left-foot strike was too beautiful for that. Instead, my agitated sleep kept focusing on that minute straight after when Robert Firmino’s shot was cleared off the line and Mo Salah hit the rebound against the post. Arghhhh!
Maybe it’s naiive to think it turns the tie but grabbing the away goal would have been massive. Score the opener at Anfield and we’d be one more away from the 2-0 required to go through.
Losing 3-0 seems just too out of reach. Manchester City tried it against us last season but, as they found out, concede one in the return and the tie is dead.
It may seem strange but there’s a small part of me that almost doesn’t mind being on the wrong end of a piece of Messi magic. He’s now part of our history. “Remember his strike in last year’s semi in the Nou Camp?” we can reminisce in future years.
Not having that? Look, it’s a coping mechanism. I’m trying to put a brave face on this! While I’m in praise-the-opposition mode, I’ll also doff my cap to Luis Suarez.
It just had to be him!
Luis Suárez scores his first Champions League goal of the season against his former side 👊
A big goal and a big celebration 👀 pic.twitter.com/JpkwknxIdr
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 1, 2019
He was brilliant and horrible last night but, do you know what, I admired him for both. Suarez was so amazing for LFC due to both those attributes. I simply don’t mind that he celebrated his goal with passion and got in our faces.
For those 90 minutes, he wanted to destroy us. Not because we’re Liverpool, but because we were the opposition in front of him that night. I still think he absolutely adored his time at Anfield but there’s ample opportunity for love and best wishes before and after the game. I wish more were like him. As for the other ex-Liverpool player on view last night, well, I didn’t really notice him.
Philippe Coutinho was no Suarez but he still did some great stuff in a red shirt. We should thank him for that. We should also thank him for basically funding our revamped defence. What are the maths again? Coutinho = Van Dijk + Alisson. Just about spot on. £75m and £66m = £141m and we sold him for £142m.
Anyway, much as Reds fans don’t like it, the crucial figures from last night were the three to them and the zero to us. We played far better than that but they were ruthless – well, up to a point, as it should have been 4-0 with the last kick.
The lack of an away goal virtually kills us but, of course, we always have the Premier League….
Glory or despair for Liverpool
After the weeks and weeks of they win, we win and we win, they win, it’s suddenly all going to get stark and brutal very quickly. We’re now into russian roulette territory. The barrel is either empty or loaded. Glory or despair. Triumph or tragedy.
Let’s start with the dream scenario as, after the Barca defeat, Reds fans need to cling to a positive.
We beat Newcastle on Saturday evening and Manchester City drop points at Leicester and, my god, it’s there right in front of us. A victory at Wolves next weekend and the 29-year wait for the title would be over. Pure joy.
The nightmare alternative: We lose to Newcastle and City clinch the title by beating Leicester on Monday night. Yes, that would be it. They’d be four points clear. We wouldn’t have even taken it to the final day. That’s how close we are to this being decided now. One false move and we’re dead.
I’ll mention one other grim scenario – we draw at Newcastle and City beat Leicester. That puts them three points clear and, even with a 1-0 win, would give City a superior goal difference of +5. In effect they’re champions. We know it’s all over and yet have to put up with mathematical pedants telling us it’s not.
While Wednesday night in the Nou Camp with Suarez and Coutinho was a reminder of days gone by, it’s a potentially fascinating late twist that the outcome of the title could be decided by two former Liverpool bosses – Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers.
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My fear is that Rafa will be the cold-hearted assassin and pull the trigger on us while Brendan will talk a great game ahead of the City match, lose, and then spend the post-match interview telling the world what a magnificent season Liverpool have had and what beautiful human beings we are.
The clutching at straws part of me notes that two ex-Reds bosses – Benitez and Roy Hodgson – have guided their teams to wins over City this season. So can Brendan complete a magnificent hat-trick? Can Jamie Vardy maintain his brilliant scoring record against big teams?
Of course, another pair of wins for Liverpool and City and nothing gets decided. But, let’s be honest, it does really.
They have Brighton on the final day and the Seagulls have about as much chance of stopping City as we have of overturning a 3-0 deficit against Barcelona.
Oh dear. I’ve gone sad again…..
By Dave Tindall – follow him on Twitter