Another big occasion for Barcelona requires another big performance from Messi, and he did just that as his two goals put Barca one foot in the Champions League final!
Both clubs have won the Champions League five times and their history and are desperate to add a sixth. This was a huge game, with the winner over the two legs of this semi surely going on to be the favourite for the competition.
Liverpool last won the Champions League in 2005. Their famous comeback from 3-0 to AC Milan, there last European trophy. Since then, Klopp has taken his side to two more European finals. The Europa League final in 2016 and then the Champions League final last year. Unfortunately for Liverpool, Real Madrid beat them 3-1 last year, courtesy of two Karius howlers.
Barca last won the competition in 2015, they beat Juventus 3-1. They have won all of their last four finals and are hoping to make it five this year. They haven’t featured in the semi-finals of the Champions League since 2015.
Going into the game Barca were the favourites to qualify but only just. The hosts had a full-strength side out whereas Liverpool didn’t. Firmino hadn’t passed a fitness test and was on the bench, Joe Gomez started his first game back since the injury with Alexander-Arnold dropping to the bench.
There was a lot of build-up to this game, especially how the battle between Messi and Van Dijk would go.
Liverpool started the game the better of the two teams. They pressed Barcelona well not allowing them time on the ball and forcing them to play long. They had a claim for a penalty in the fourth minute when Mane got tangled up with Pique. However, had the pen gone to VAR it probably wouldn’t have been given as Mane was offside when he was played through.
The visitors also defended well at the start, not allowing Barca to get many shots off. But this only last 25 minutes. A fantastic ball from Alba met and even better run from Suarez. The ex-Liverpool clipping the ball into the net, a brilliant finish and one that he didn’t hold back the celebrations for.
Klopp will have been annoyed though that his side didn’t go in level at the break. Henderson’s ball in behind found Mane ten yards from goal. One on one Mane only had to hit the ball goal bound and it would have gone it. The Senegalese forward couldn’t manage it though and it went over to the home fans delight.
Liverpool started the second half brightly as well and nearly found the equaliser. Milner hitting the ball first time in the box to the bottom right corner but Ter Stegen made a great save to keep it 1-0. Salah then tested the German goalkeeper. His shot from outside the box was whipping into the bottom left corner but again Ter Stegen kept it out.
Milner had another good effort on the 58th minute. Great build-up play saw Van Dijk switch the ball to Salah. He cut inside and played a ball into the box for Milner. All the midfielder had to do was hit any part of the target bar where Ter Stegen was stood and the pace on the ball would have made it go in. Unfortunately for him, he managed to play it straight into the arms of the keeper.
Nelson Semedo was introduced to help out Sergi Roberto at right-back and this was the turning point. Barca gained more control of the game and doubled their lead as a result. A lot of unlucky rebounds and the ball fell to Suarez in the box. He kneed it over Alisson but hit the bar. The ball came back out to Messi who calmly took a touch and tapped it into the empty net. Liverpool now had to make sure they didn’t add another.
However, six minutes later it happened again. Messi won a freekick 25/30 yards out and was standing over it to take it. It looked very far out and was going to need to be special to beat Alisson. But this is Messi and this is what he does. He smashed the ball into the top left corner whipping around the wall and into the goal. The Nou Camp erupted and Liverpool looked deflated. This was Messi’s 600th goal for Barcelona, 14 years exactly after his first.
Liverpool nearly got one back though straight from kick-off. A long ball found Firmino in the box who had his shot cleared off the line. The ball fell to Salah who only had to hit the target but he smashed it against the post and Barca were let off.
The visitors were lucky it didn’t finish 4-0. Dembele had a one on one at the end but couldn’t find the back of the net. Liverpool had chances at the Nou Camp and not taking them will surely cost them, they did play well though and even saw more of the ball then Barca!
Liverpool host Barcelona next Tuesday where they have it all to do. Bet365 have Liverpool at 10/1 to qualify and Barca at 1/25. Barca are now also the favourites to win the whole competition at 4/9. Liverpool are priced way out at 18/1