Six key moments on Liverpool's road to Paris

UCL finalSix key moments on Liverpool's road to Paris

Published 25th May 2022
By Chris Shaw

Ahead of Saturday's Champions League final, we take a look back at six key moments on Liverpool's journey to the Paris showpiece.

The Reds will face Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid at Stade de France as they aim to win the European Cup for the seventh time in club history.

It is the culmination of another eventful adventure in the competition, one that seemed at some stages last season like it would not even happen.

Relive half-a-dozen vital episodes on Liverpool’s path to the final below…

Alisson’s last-minute winner

With 10 games remaining in the top flight last season, Liverpool’s chances of qualifying for this year’s Champions League appeared pretty slim.

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Jürgen Klopp’s men had just been consigned to a sixth consecutive home defeat and were beset by injury misfortunes, not least the absence of each of the senior centre-backs – Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk – that began the campaign.

But the Reds steadily rejuvenated themselves in 2020-21’s closing weeks, stringing together an unbeaten run in the league that yielded eight victories and two draws.

Its high point of drama was a moment that took an instantaneous place in LFC folklore.

With little margin for error in the race for the top four, Liverpool were being held 1-1 at West Bromwich Albion in their third-to-last fixture and time was running out.

As they won a corner on the left-hand side in the fifth minute of stoppage time, John Achterberg encouraged Alisson Becker to add his presence to the penalty area, perhaps more in hope than expectation.

What followed was pandemonium.

Trent Alexander-Arnold swung the kick into the near post, finding Alisson in a pocket of space and the goalkeeper leapt to power a header across the face of goal and into the far corner, winning the match in the most sensational circumstances.

Every angle: Alisson's winner at West Brom

“In the interview after I scored in the game, I said that if we could go on to win the Champions League, this goal would become even more special. Not only the goal, but every sacrifice we made in that last season will be worth it,” said the No.1 recently.

“It’s already worth it because we are in a really good place playing a final but if we can win that it will become even more special.”

A year and 12 days later, they will have that opportunity.

Hendo hammers Reds to crucial start

After the travails involved to even secure participation in the tournament, the draw for the Champions League group stage delivered Liverpool few favours.

The reigning Spanish title-holders – Atletico Madrid – and soon-to-be champions of Portugal and Italy – FC Porto and AC Milan respectively – made up a group most observers declared the standout toughest of the competition.

And that sense of jeopardy was only strengthened when Milan, the fourth seeds, responded to a blistering Red tide on matchday one by taking a 2-1 half-time lead at Anfield.

With every point potentially going to be crucial and successive away trips next on the schedule, Liverpool needed to overcome the frustration of seeing a largely dominant first-half display undone in a swift double-punch.

They levelled thanks to a deft Mohamed Salah finish and set about finding a winner as they attacked the Anfield Road end with gusto.

When it came, it was magnificent.

A cleared corner dropped to Jordan Henderson just outside the area and the captain met the ball with a sumptuous thump that sent it whistling into the bottom left corner of the Milan net.

The Reds were off and running.

Doing the double over Atletico

After an emphatic away victory against Porto, Liverpool stepped into back-to-back meetings with Diego Simeone’s Atletico in Group B.

With six points safely accrued, a double-header versus the team that had eliminated Klopp’s side in the last 16 in 2019-20 always seemed likely to have significant bearing on the Reds’ situation in the section.

First up was a return to Estadio Metropolitano, the scene of their European Cup triumph of 2019.

Quickfire goals from Salah and Naby Keita – the latter a beautiful, instant volley from 20 yards –were cancelled out by a brace from Antoine Griezmann, who was then sent off on a frenzied evening in Spain.

The final word went to the visitors and Salah, though, as the Egyptian stroked in a late penalty, restoring a lead that Liverpool would preserve despite the imposing home atmosphere.

Inside Madrid | Atletico 2-3 Liverpool

Events were rather more straightforward for the Reds in the rematch at Anfield a fortnight later, with first-half Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane strikes ensuring a fourth consecutive win and progress to the knockouts.

It was the first time Liverpool had ever won each of their opening four games in the group stage – a perfect streak they would extend by taking the maximum 18 points available.

Bobby unlocks Inter at San Siro

Having wrapped up the group stage with victory over Milan at San Siro, the Reds were sent back to the legendary arena for their first assignment in the knockouts.

Internazionale, the reigning Serie A champions, stood in their way and an absorbing opening leg in Italy remained delicately balanced at 0-0 as full-time neared.

Enter, Roberto Firmino.

Introduced from the bench at half-time, the No.9 escaped his marker expertly to meet an Alexander-Arnold corner to the near post with a perfect flicked header that swung into the opposite corner and landed the first blow.

Salah soon pounced on a loose ball inside the opposition box to fire in Liverpool’s second goal of the night as the momentum swung swiftly and firmly in the Reds’ favour.

It was the decisive period of the tie, with Inter’s subsequent 1-0 result at Anfield – Klopp’s side’s only defeat of 2022 to date – not enough to undo the damage.

Diaz delivers on return to Portugal

Luis Diaz’s affiliation to former club Porto made him the chief target of the home crowd’s jeers when he returned to Portugal for Liverpool’s quarter-final first leg against Benfica.

But the Colombia international was unperturbed by the welcome on that April night and proved to be a key protagonist in his new team’s 3-1 success in Lisbon.

Diaz maximised the opportunity from Alexander-Arnold’s laser-guided pass in behind to tee up Mane for the Reds’ second of the night, after Ibrahima Konate had nodded them ahead.

A 2-0 half-time lead reflected how the opening 45 minutes had proceeded almost entirely to the visitors’ script, yet Benfica – empowered by a Darwin Nunez goal early in the second period – soon caused problems as they sought a way back.

So when, with 88 on the clock, Diaz timed his run to remain onside from Keita’s threaded pass forward, rounded the goalkeeper and swept the ball into the net from the angle, Klopp’s side were grateful for the extra cushion it provided.

“I feel that goal was a key moment for us because that’s what decided the match,” Diaz recently told UEFA. “When I was in front of the goalkeeper, I decided to dribble past him and put away that nice goal.

“For me, it was incredible to be able to score my first goal for Liverpool in the Champions League, and I was delighted to be able to help the team and be able to secure such an important victory.”

And the value of the No.23’s cool conversion grew in the return leg as a topsy-turvy encounter at Anfield ended 3-3 with Benfica going all out to overturn their deficit.

Half-time in Villarreal

Liverpool travelled to Villarreal’s Estadio de la Ceramica for the second leg of the semi-final holding a 2-0 advantage from part one at Anfield.

There were no thoughts of Paris yet, however, with Klopp’s pre-match message clear – “they will go with all they have” – and hugely prescient, it would turn out.

Boulaye Dia nudged in from close range with only three minutes elapsed and Francis Coquelin netted just before the break to help the La Liga outfit equalise the aggregate score and stun the Reds.

With their hopes of a third Champions League final appearance in five seasons suddenly hanging in the balance, Liverpool simply had to react.

On came Diaz at the break for a starring role and back with a vengeance came the Reds, who delivered a scintillating 12-minute treble to ensure their presence at Stade de France this weekend with a 3-2 win.

Fabinho broke forward to lash in the first, Diaz headed home the second and Mane rounded the goalkeeper to guide a clinching third over the line.

On the half-time instructions that inspired the turnaround, Klopp explained: “About playing football and where we have to play, where we have to move, where we have to show up, where we have to be brave, where we have to change the momentum, where we have to go in behind and where we have to go in between.

“It was a football problem and understanding football problems you sort with football, if you can get your mind right. After three minutes, our mind was not right anymore – we were in a rush, we felt the pressure and that doesn’t make sense.

“You have to force your own football through and in the second half we did that.”

Road to Paris: Highlights of every game

Published 25th May 2022