Tuesday, 7 May 2019 will go down as the greatest European night ever to be played at Anfield. Even a side of Liverpool’s calibre know that it may well be generations until such a momentous evening is enjoyed again, and it was yet another example of how dangerous a venue it is for any team, no matter how decorated they are.
A Rich History of Greatness
Nobody gave Liverpool a chance on Tuesday night, and even those who like to explore a wide range of Champions League spread betting options would have been brave to back Liverpool reaching the final.
Even so, Liverpool’s ability to utilise the home crowd to devastating effect stems back much further than younger generations of Reds fans realise.
Back in 1977, during Liverpool’s first successful quest for a European Cup, the Reds trailed 1-0 from a first-leg defeat at Turkish club Trabzonspor. The Kop was as vocal then as it is now, and three Liverpool goals annihilated the Turks, sending the Reds on their way to a maiden European success.
Their subsequent trophy wins were also characterised by raucous Anfield encounters with foes from foreign shores. This was certainly the case in the biggest test they faced en-route to trophy number five, when Liverpool faced off against Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals back in April 2005.
Strong Starts are key
On a night fraught with emotion founded on past events, Liverpool thrived on the initial Anfield roar and – as they did in their Barcelona comeback last Tuesday – took the lead inside the opening ten minutes.
This strong, intimidating start to proceedings proved the difference, with eventual tie losers Juventus belatedly composing themselves. Often, the time wasted adjusting to the sheer venom of the Kop End costs teams dearly.
Last year’s run-in to the final also saw memorable nights characterised by electric starts, including a 3-0 demolition of Premier League champions-elect Manchester City, and the uncontrollable surge to a 5-0 lead in the first leg against Roma in the semi-finals.
It is more than just shouting which gives Liverpool an edge at Anfield though, and Liverpool’s ability to harness the home crowd’s influence has been redoubled by more physical means, as well as vocal.
Coincidence or otherwise, the redevelopment of the Kop End in 1994 yielded an instant surge in results, with Liverpool finishing inside the top four in seven of the following eight years, directly after several years of underachievement under Graeme Souness.
It also seems to be little coincidence that the more recent expansion of the main stand, which greets unassuming visitors straight out of the tunnel, has also yielded an improved reputation in Europe. Ever-charismatic, Klopp knows well how to project this in press conferences, and psyche out opponents through a variety of tactics ahead of a home.
In stating that Liverpool had to produce a “perfect” performance in the second leg against Barcelona, Klopp exercised reverse psychology to great effect. Barcelona, up on aggregate by an undeserved degree, believed this hype fully. Then they were found wanting, and realised all too late that reality and expectation are completely different entities.
#6 – Likely, or Inevitable?
Liverpool have exuded magic both at home and abroad throughout 2018/19, and they rightly go into the Champions League final as favourites. However, there is one more hurdle, and the same could easily be said of finalists Tottenham as far as ‘magic’ is concerned.
Tottenham have also made a huge impact in the tournament, showing their character by succeeding where Liverpool inconsequentially failed, taking a point from Barcelona. Their character has also been tested to the limits by a two-legged tie against Manchester City, which demanded the sort of concentration that many Champions League winners in the past have shown.
While there will be no Kop End, nor any enhanced main stand to give Liverpool the same aura of invincibility in the final, winning is a habit. As such, it certainly seems as though it is Liverpool’s final to lose, but nothing can be taken for granted.
Just ask Barcelona and Ajax…