In a match that was similar in many ways to the 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Anfield this past Saturday, Liverpool stormed through to the quarter-final stages of the Champions League tonight after going through on the away goals rule (2-2 on aggregate).
Liverpool controlled much of the game, especially in the first half, and were unlucky not to be ahead after hitting the crossbar twice and Barcelona clearing the ball off the line. But while Liverpool was impressive on the attack, the team was also tactically superior as they stopped Barcelona from playing their brand of football. All Barca could do in the first half was pass the ball around in their own half and were only seldom able to penetrate Liverpool’s midfield.
Liverpool’s key strength in this match was their incisive one-touch football that ripped Barcelona apart time after time. Mohamed Sissoko was a rock in midfield, while John Arne Riise was a constant threat down the left wing. Every Liverpool player stepped up to the occasion on a historic night on Merseyside.
Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi were largely ineffective for Barcelona, and their attacks were easily stamped out by the Reds. Barcelona’s best chance fell to Ronaldinho with a one-on-one against Pepe Reina. However, Ronaldinho’s shot hit the post when he should have hit it hard and low.
When substitute Eidur Gudjonsen was left wide open on the left wing and ran in to score Barcelona’s goal, it seemed like only a matter of time before Barca scored a second against the tired-looking Liverpool team. However, Liverpool held on for a historic win over two legs against the richest team in the world.
Based on Liverpool’s performances in the past few weeks, in both the Champions League and Premiership, they’re playing the best football in England right now. The results haven’t been going totally their way, but they’re creating so many chances and playing a wonderful attacking blend of football that those shots are bound to hit the back of the net soon. They’re finding their form at the right time. It’s too late for any silverware in England, but the Champions League trophy beckons.
If they can beat Barcelona (albeit a shadow of their former greatness), who can’t they beat?