Not for the first time, Anfield bore witness to a night of European drama, arguably one of the most dramatic in the clubs illustrious history. All the talk ahead of the first leg of this Europa League quarter final was of Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp returning to face his former team Borussia Dortmund for the first time since leaving the Westfalenstadion. Often, games with such hype and emotion leading into them turn into an anti-climax, but it was anything of the sort; an entertaining game that finished all square and left this tie nicely in the balance for the second leg at Anfield.
Klopp took a huge gamble in opting for James Milner ahead of Joe Allen to replace the injured Jordan Henderson in central midfield, especially given Milner performances there earlier in the season. He also went for Divock Origi again, rather than Daniel Sturridge up front after the Belgian striker’s impressive performance in Germany last week. Much was made of the electric atmosphere in Dortmund last week and Anfield matched it, with both sets of fans very vocal. There was a nice touch of class from Dortmund’s fans, displaying a mosaic in memory of the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster, with the match coming on the eve of the 27th anniversary of that tragic day.
Tuchel promised his side would attack from the start and he was as good as his word, with Aubameyang shooting wide after just a few minutes, but it was a warning of what’s to come. Coutinho lost the ball on the edge of the Dortmund area and the visitors quickly countered, leaving Milner out of position and allowing Kagawa the time to run at the exposed defence. With the ball shifted to Castro, he crossed in for Aubameyang to volley goal-wards that was well saved by Mignolet, but Mkhitaryan was on hand to finish the rebound.
Just five minutes later, Marco Reus was able to run past three Liverpool players before playing a delicious diagonal ball through for Aubameyang that Sakho was unable to intercept and the striker made no mistake, firing inside Mignolet’s near post to put Dortmund 2-0 up on the night within 10 minutes.
Liverpool were rocked, but slowly started to get themselves back in the match with Origi having a shot blocked and Firmino cutting a ball back to Adam Lallana, but he missed the ball with the game being played wide open. It was only a tackle from Sakho that prevented Aubameyang adding a third for Dortmund before Firmino again set up Lallana at the other end, but his attempt was blocked. The chances continued before the break, with Aubameyang almost getting on the end of a Piszczek cross and pulling a shot wide after combining with Reus.
Liverpool began the second half strongly and within three minutes of the restart, Emre Can drove through Dortmund’s midfield before sliding the ball into the path of Origi and he dispatched his chance well. With the comeback on, Liverpool were growing in confidence, but that was soon shattered in the 56th minute when Hummels pushed forward. His pass through-ball caught Clyne out and Reus finished with aplomb in the far corner.
The Reds midfield simply wasn’t functioning well enough and the changes came on the hour with Allen and Sturridge introduced for Lallana and Firmino. The change in shape from Klopp seemed to do the trick and with 65 minutes on the clock, Moreno played the ball into Coutinho on the Liverpool left, the Brazilian interchanged passes with Milner before finishing superbly with his right foot from the edge of the area. It only intensified the atmosphere within Anfield as the fans sensed another famous European night could be on the cards and so it proved to be. Liverpool’s corners had been typically poor all night, but in the 77th minute Milner managed to beat the first man and there was Sakho to profit from some poor defending to comfortably nod the ball in from close range and draw the match level on the night.
Heading into injury time, Anfield was rocking and Dortmund had gone from cruise control to looking edgy in the second half. A couple of minutes into added time, Sturridge spotted the run of Milner inside him on the right side of the box and played a lovely ball into his path; Milner dug out a cross and there was Lovren on the far post to head home a dramatic winner for Liverpool in front of the Kop to cue incredible scenes. At the final whistle, Dortmund look devastated at losing a tie that was so firmly within their grasp earlier in the night, whilst Liverpool fans and players celebrated deliriously another famous European win that will likely go down in Anfield folklore and takes the club into the Europa League semi-finals.
Mignolet; Moreno, Sakho, Lovren, Clyne; Can (Lucas), Milner; Coutinho, Firmino (Sturridge), Lallana (Allen); Origi
Subs: Ward, Skrtel, Smith, Lucas, Allen, Ojo, Sturridge
Weidenfeller; Schmelzer, Hummels, Sokratis, Piszczek; Weigl, Castro (Gündogan), Kagawa (Ginter); Reus (Ramos), Mkhitaryan; Aubameyang
Subs: Bürki, Ginter, Bender, Sahin, Gündogan, Pulisic, Ramos