Echoes of 1981 and 2005 as Liverpool find refuge in Budapest and their quest for the Champions League
Liverpool have been through a storm which has been longer and fiercer than one might have expected at Anfield. Yet it is completely in line with the history of the club that they should have found refuge in the quest for the European Cup.
Amid the wreckage of the first three months of 2021, their two performances against Leipzig, a Bundesliga second-team, offer glimmers of hope.
Twice before, in 1981 and 2005, Liverpool had won the European Cup while finishing outside the top four – though that would have been a concept unknown to Bob Paisley’s boys who lived by the old Anfield mantra of ” first is first, second is nowhere ”.
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You still wouldn’t back Jürgen Klopp’s side to do it a third time, but they looked what they haven’t been lately, a competent and consistent side, who could have won by more than two goals. .
The scorers were the former firm of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, who accidentally hit both goals in the first leg which was played in the same stadium as the second.
The goals they scored were harder than the ones they squandered and it was a surprise that it took them 70 minutes to force the breakthrough.
It came at a time when Leipzig were the most aggressive and featured a nice interaction between Diogo Jota’s top three, Mané and Salah who cut into the box and with three white shirts in front of him, shot in the corner from Peter Gulacsi. report.
It was about it but, just to be sure, Mané produced a beautifully timed shot to meet Divock Origi’s deep crossover.
For most clubs it would have been a serious disadvantage to have a home draw moved to a stadium 1,000 miles away. Considering the anguish Liverpool endured at Anfield, to have played the home game in Budapest would have been a relief.
Given that they had beaten Leipzig 2-0 here last month, even the 1-0 defeats they suffered against Burnley, Brighton and Fulham would have been enough to allow Liverpool to advance to the quarter-finals. However, six of their eight Champions League games have now been won without conceding.
Nevertheless, they were playing at a stadium named after Ferenc Puskas who, as captain of Hungary, lost a two-goal lead in a World Cup final against the Germans. However, throughout the night, Liverpool seemed more likely to extend their lead rather than cede it.
Gulacsi, who in five years at Liverpool under four different managers has not played a game, demonstrated why he perhaps deserves better than loans at Tranmere and Hereford.
Playing in his hometown of Budapest, Gulacsi kept Leipzig tied with two very different saves. The first was brilliant and instinctive, pushing a Diogo Jota head that he must have seen late, over the bar. The second was a nerve test.
A brilliantly executed long ball from Thiago Alcantara, thrown from deep in his own half, allowed Salah to clear the goal. Gulacsi kept his cool and held on. Salah’s shot was indifferent but the rebound fell on Mané, who, unlike how he would finish Liverpool’s second, aimed his head straight into the ground.
As the minutes ticked by, Gulacsi again saved from Jota, who had been preferred to the wretched Roberto Firmino. However, even Firmino, who has scored once in his last 16 appearances, could have imagined his chances if he had been presented with the ball on the six-yard line like Jota was by Dayot Upamecano. The result was a shot into the side net.
If any of those chances had happened, Leipzig would have needed three in 45 minutes to pass. The emotions running through the veins of their manager, Julian Nagelsmann, would have been a relief.
Liverpool’s central-defensive combination of Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips had the protection of Fabinho patrolling in front of them and was rarely on display. Alisson Becker only had one serious save to make – choking on a point blank shot from Dani Olmo. Phillips has demonstrated the kind of old-fashioned appetite for directing the ball that his father, Jimmy, who has played more than 300 games for Bolton, would have enjoyed.
Nagelsmann responded by recruiting more forwards in the form of Justin Kluivert, whose father won the European Cup with Ajax, and Hwang Hee-chan who in his native South Korea is known as’ “ The Bull ” – which presumably drew him to energy. beverage company that sponsors Leipzig.
The two gave the German club the pace and the frankness it lacked. However, it was Nagelsmann’s other replacement, Alexander Sorloth, who had disappeared without a trace at Crystal Palace, who came closest to the breakthrough, sending a header against Alisson’s crossbar. His team, however, needed more than that.