Liverpool’s stunning 4-0 Champions League demolition of Barcelona naturally dominated the front and back pages of British newspapers on Wednesday with most going on a similar theme to the Daily Mail’s splash: “Miracle of Anfield”.
“An Anfield miracle transcribed from the pages of pure fantasy,” read the headline of the match report in The Independent, while The Guardian led with “Out of this world”.
The Merseyside club’s sensational victory over what some pundits described as one of the best sides of the modern era allowed them to overturn a 3-0 deficit from the first leg of their semi-final.
There were some suggestions that Liverpool had topped the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’, when the club similarly overturned a three-goal deficit to beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final to win their fifth European title.
European fixtures at Anfield have had a special atmosphere going back a lot further than that and some suggested the noise generated by a packed house combined with Juergen Klopp’s aggressive side had unsettled the Spanish champions.
“This is Liverpool’s gift: to rip up what you thought you knew about football and footballers, to take you — mentally and physically — to a place you don’t know and never wanted to go,” Jonathan Liew wrote in The Independent.
There was plenty of praise for the spirit and self-belief that Klopp has fostered in his team, the German even forgiven for using an expletive when praising his players after the match.
“Juergen Klopp makes Liverpool believe they can do the impossible,” wrote Matt Dickinson in The Times. “No one minded when Juergen Klopp dropped the f-bomb live on television.
“After this, he could have stripped off and run around Anfield with his pants down and it would all have seemed part of his manic Germanic charm. With that grin and this football, he can get away with anything.”
There was plenty of praise as well for Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick-thinking from a corner that caught the Barcelona defence napping and set up the decisive fourth goal for stand-in striker Divock Origi.
“With 79 minutes gone, the most celebrated team of the modern age had been reduced to a bunch of mooching, stumbling yellow-shirted spectators,” Barney Ronay wrote in The Guardian.
“A Champions League season that had seemed to be zeroing in on another coronation for Lionel Messi had been wrenched, gleefully, the other way. It will instead be Liverpool in Madrid on the first day of June for another shot at the ultimate.”
The website of Spanish sports daily AS led with a quote from Argentine forward Messi in their headline “It was a horror movie”, while rival publication Marca’s edition splashed “Barcelona fail epically at Anfield”.
After Klopp and his players had stood, some in tears, in front of The Kop to celebrate the win with a rendition of the club anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, it was left to The Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel to point out that the job was not yet done.
“One had the feeling this was the moment he had been working towards since the day he set foot on Merseyside,” he wrote of Klopp.
“This spirit. This togetherness. This performance. This passion, this emotion: it was all here, every last drop of what he wanted to achieve.
“And yet, there is still such a long way to go.”
Liverpool face either Tottenham Hotspur or Ajax Amsterdam in the final on June 1.
‘Biggest embarrassment of all time’: Spanish press digs the knife into Barca
The Spanish and Catalan press were in unforgiving mood after Barcelona’s 4-0 surrender to Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals denied them a place in the final by wiping out a 3-0 advantage from the first leg.
“The biggest embarrassment of all time,” said the front cover of Barcelona-based newspaper Sport on top of a black canvas after the 4-3 aggregate defeat, adding “Barca write the darkest page in their history”.
“A historic failure”, said Marca, listing all the factors in Barca’s favour before the game which deepened the scale of their defeat and denied Lionel Messi the chance to lift the trophy he had clearly targetted at the start of the season.
“They were 3-0 up, Liverpool’s stars were injured, the league was won, the final is in Madrid, Real Madrid were already out and they had the best player in the world.”
Parallels were drawn with Barca’s eerily similar capitulation in last season’s competition to AS Roma in the quarter-finals, when they crashed out on away goals following a 3-0 defeat in Italy after leading the tie 4-1.
Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo also talked of an embarrassment and slammed Ernesto Valverde’s side for switching off for the fourth goal, scored by Divock Origi but set up by the quick thinking of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“A ridiculous goal conceded from a corner will be the epitaph of this team, which repeated the mistakes of Rome,” said the newspaper’s cover.
Barca’s Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets apologised to fans after the game, as did Valverde, and there is a feeling that the coach is unlikely to survive this latest European failure despite overseeing the team’s domestic dominance.
“The Champions League is too big for Valverde,” said an editorial in Sport.
“Without doubt, Valverde holds a lot of responsibility for this disaster because when the moment of truth arrived he made the same mistakes as last year.”
The players did not escape blame either.
Marca’s ratings, which judge individual performances by awarding players between one and three stars, gave seven of Barca’s starting 11 no stars at all.
Sport’s player ratings meanwhile gave no player more than three marks out of 10, while midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho were each given a rating of zero.