John Lennon’s Imagine was the song echoing around Anfield as we finally began to make our way out, but not our way home. An inspired choice from the Voice of Anfield, George Sephton because in the muted lead up to a European Cup semi-final all we could do was Imagine.
Imagine if we beat these. Imagine if we score early. Imagine if we attack the Kop second half. Imagine if there’s one last twist in the tale of this epic campaign.
Let’s face it, the said epic campaign has been about the league for most of us. It’s been about the skill, bravery and mentality that our Liverpool have shared with us in assembling a potential 97 points in a domestic season. To not be crowned Champions would be downright cruel, regardless of those who say we should be proud. Pride gets you fuck all.
It happened. pic.twitter.com/AAx8vm0j1c
— RedsBet (@Reds_Bet) May 8, 2019
The “twist” has materialised after all, just not where we expected it. Instead of a light being turned on by Leicester, Burnley. Spurs or United; Liverpool took it upon themselves to illuminate the season with Anfield’s greatest ever night. They now have the chance to be crowned Champions after all.
Champions of Europe. That gleaming trophy is now in sight, a title befitting of this team, of this crowd, and of this season.
Anfield is quite simply the only stadium where what happened last night comes to pass.
Anfield isn’t just a football ground; instead a place of worship where colour and song and harmony occasionally make it a beautiful, ecclesiastical place. What Barcelona faced though wasn’t at all beautiful, but a nasty, spiteful, vindictive Anfield consumed with aggression.
Anfield played its part by donning the dark robes of a heartless assassin intent on taking out Barca’s marked men. Coutinho was made to disappear, Suarez wounded and eventually Messi shot to pieces. Busquets, Pique and Rakitic still have the echoes of gunfire ringing in their ears.
Imagine playing in and against that. What we can say for them is that despite the sheer, undiluted bias of a crowd spitting invective at them all night they looked mighty dangerous for a while at 1-0.
OH MY GOD! pic.twitter.com/KHoGRJIHpy
— RedsBet (@Reds_Bet) May 7, 2019
Messi, with that ambling, stooped gait and tiny velvet steps puts the fear of God into you. From the Kop you man-mark him yourself, always glancing away from the ball, right or left to see if he’s found deadly space. When he’s on the ball you wince until he’s dispossessed when you can exhale your whole being.
But, Liverpool beat them four nil in an act of sheer defiance. Divock Origi doesn’t normally play. He scores two goals in a European Cup semi-final. The first is celebrated with clenched fists and expectant leaps reminiscent of Gerrard’s goal in Istanbul. Hello. Hello. His winner, from Trent’s corner – disguised so well that half the crowd missed it – is marked with confusion followed by exhausted disbelief.
In between Gini Wijnaldum’s brace, a minute apart, sees bedlam. Men are hugging if not rolling down gangways. People are kissing if not strewn, lying backwards starring into the stars of the Kop sky. Others try to help you up while you howl with laughter and say to yourself, “I’m alright down here, mate.” Wijnaldum’s second, the one that restores that cherished parity, will live with me forever; the loop off his head, the ripple of a virginal white net dirtied twice in the blink of an eye.
At the end, after a quarter hour of purgatory at the gates of away goal hell, joy is unbridled. There are mass pileys, sinking of knees to turf and terrace alike. We look down on our heroes. Alisson the maker of all the saves needed and there were quite a few. Andy Robbo, lame after his ongoing rumble with the dastardly Suarez, but the lad who injected the required spite at the outset.
Jordan Henderson, a total stranger to lactic acid, practically crippled in the first half but just shakes it off to reassume a boisterous, finger-pointing, prompting captain’s role. Sadio Mane, that beaming smile belying his devil and sinew. Jimmy Milner, the erstwhile yeoman, crying tears even he never knew he had.
There they are in front of us, opposite us, facing us, just like us. Us looking down on them, them looking up at us, and maybe that’s the right way round.
Or maybe it isn’t and we just need each other on nights like this. May there be many more. Imagine Madrid on June 1st.
These Reds 🔴🔴🔴 pic.twitter.com/hpYK1SgUao
— RedsBet (@Reds_Bet) May 8, 2019
*Odds are subject to change