Image Credit [OptaJoe]
Lionel Messi scores his 600th goal amid Barcalona’s 3-0 rout of Liverpool.
Before Wednesday’s thrilling encounter between two of the best sides in world football, Barcelona and Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp had said that the only difference between them was Lionel Messi.
Unfortunately, for the Liverpool manager, he was spot on, in spite of the Reds’ impressive start. Indeed, at half-time, there was nothing really to separate the two sides. A moment of world-class brilliance from ex-Red Luis Suarez meant that the Catalans went into the half-time interval with a one goal lead. At the Camp Nou, this was not the end of the world.
Indeed, Liverpool showed, throughout the first half, that they have just as much quality as their Spanish rivals, Messi apart. Throughout the first 45, Salah and Mané unnerved the Barcelona defence, and had they carried on with this high-level pressure, they would have had every chance to snatch an away goal or two.
The events of the second half, however, have given Klopps’ side a herculean task in order to reach the Champions League Final for the second successive season.
Indeed, a fortuitous goal from Messi, where he walked the ball into an open net after Suarez’s attempt had hit the bar, followed by an outrageous free-kick from the greatest footballer in the world, which no goalkeeper would have saved, gave Barcelona the decisive three goal lead, which is how it stayed. If the Spanish side score only one goal at Anfield, Liverpool will need to reply by scoring five.
Despite this score-line, however, Liverpool did not deserve this result. Indeed, if Mané’s first-half chance had gone in, or the goal-line clearance which Salah then hit the post off had gone into the net, the tie would have been different. As it stands, it was Messi’s moment of magic, and his 600th career goal, which has killed the tie.
Klopp, after all, was correct: the difference between the two sides is the Argentinian. And not even recently named PFA Player of the Year Virgil Van Dijk could stop him.
Elsewhere, on Tuesday night, Tottenham lost one-nil at home against the ever youthful and impressive Ajax. The English side, missing key men such as Harry Kane and Son, never really looked like scoring, aside from a few half-chances for Fernando Llorente and Dele Ali.
Pochettino’s men have it all to do in the second leg, although knowing that they have a much better chance of reaching the final than Liverpool.
The return legs take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. In order to progress, both English sides will need to do what they failed to do this week. Convert chances into goals.
That’s what Barcelona and Ajax did, and that’s what this stage of the Champions League is all about.