Column: Never walking alone

Thursday afternoon was borderline miraculous, yet completely fitting at the same time.

In the second leg of their quarterfinal matchup with Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League, Liverpool Football Club did the impossible at Anfield.

Entering the afternoon with a one-goal advantage due to their away goal, Liverpool was in prime position to advance. But in classic Reds fashion, they conceded two goals in the opening 10 minutes and suddenly, their backs were to the wall.  They trailed by the same score heading into the second half.

It’s been an up-and-down season for Liverpool. The dismissal of Brendan Rodgers happened about a month too late, but at least it led to the hiring of the German savior, Jürgen Klopp.

Liverpool's head coach Juergen Klopp celebrates after his team scored during the Europa League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund in Liverpool, England, Thursday, April 14, 2016 . (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Since his hiring, Liverpool has been consistently inconsistent, sporting a 20-14-9 record in all competitions. Yet, hope has been renewed on the Mersey. Liverpool’s style of play has improved dramatically. Klopp has been preaching a high pressure, fast paced system. But it’s been Klopp’s energy on the sideline and confidence in the locker room that has been the key. Players like Adam Lallana, Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino have seen an uptick in their performance since Klopp arrived.

The second half against Dortmund on Thursday was the embodiment of the spirit of Klopp. Managing against his old club, Klopp oversaw one of the great comebacks in a generation. Origi opened the scoring with a clinical goal to bring Liverpool life. However, just 10 minutes later, Dortmund’s star winger Marco Reus slotted home a beautiful goal that looked to seal the game.

The game fell on the week of the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. 27 years ago, 96 Liverpool fans died at Hillsborough Stadium due to an overcrowding issue. Since that day, the spirit of “The 96” has stayed with the club and come to define it. Liverpool has a reputation as being “more than a club,” it’s a lifestyle.

In the 65th minute, Brazilian wizard and forward Phillipe Coutinho blasted home a shot from outside the box that will surely be lost in history. But that goal sparked the Reds. With renewed intensity, Liverpool was back in the game.

After another 10 minutes, center back Mamadou Sakho blasted a header past keeper Roman Weidenfeller to level the game at three all. However, Dortmund still held the advantage due to away goals scored. Liverpool needed one more goal to advance.

Magic was in the air at Anfield. “It was a wonderful, wonderful night,” said Jürgen Klopp, to the Guardian. “That was football at its best, a great game to experience for everyone involved. We wanted to be brave but that becomes more difficult when you go behind so early, though in the end I think the result was deserved. We might have got a little bit lucky but we never stopped trying and we created a lot of chances.”

As the clock moved to stoppage time, the Liverpool faithful were in full-throated support. The many renditions of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” were inspiring and the team responded in turn. They controlled the pace of play and forced the issue, and it paid off.

Midfielder James Milner found space on the right sideline to deliver a delicious cross into the box, finding embattled center back Dejan Lovren, who nodded it home in front of the delirious Kop End.

It was magic. Magic at Anfield. A throwback to the epic 2005 Champion’s League Final comeback. Liverpool was alive and now looked to be the favorite to take home the Europa League title.

Klopp may foster a mid-table side in the Premier League, but on that beautiful night at Anfield, Liverpool was back on top of the football world.


Elan-Paolo DeCarlo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering men's basketball. He can be reached via email at elan-paolo.decarlo@uconn.edu. He tweets @ElanDeCarlo.