Observations as Liverpool Delivered Hammer Blow But Fight Continues
Liverpool were dealt a crippling blow to their Champions League hopes, suffering a 3-0 defeat at Camp Nou after a seven minute spell from Lionel Messi. With it all to do at Anfield next week, Jurgen Klopp’s men will have taken confidence from the fact that they created several chances to get on the scoresheet, but a better cutting edge will be required should they complete a remarkable turnaround.
This was a night that was indicative of Lionel Messi’s quality. The Argentinian forward orchestrated a scintillating second-half, netting twice in quick succession with Liverpool only able to watch on in disbelief.
Wijnaldum deployed in unfamiliar role
With Firmino only deemed fit enough to feature on the bench, many would’ve expected Divock Origi or Xherdan Shaqiri to be involved, allowing Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to drift inside and cause problems.
Klopp’s curveball of Wijnaldum in the forward role left everyone slightly perplexed; the hope would’ve been that the Dutchman’s work-rate could put enough pressure on Pique and Lenglet, preventing the Spaniards from playing out the back and dictating the tempo.
Albeit a show of his flexibility and versatility, having featured at centre-back, centre-mid, the wing and now as a forward, Wijnaldum’s influence was minimal on the night. The former-Newcastle man inability to affect things in the final third earmarked the importance of Roberto Firmino’s movement and ingenuity. A night when Liverpool missed one of their star men, they’ll be hoping he can orchestrate a turnaround next week.
Hold your hands up to Messi
Sometimes you’ve just got to hold your hands up and watch on. Such is Messi’s quality that when he stepped up to take a long-range free-kick there was genuine belief, and fear, that he would find the back of the net. Indeed, he did, delivering a perfectly executed strike to deal a hammer blow to Liverpool’s hopes of rectifying defeat in Kiev last year.
There was nothing to be done about his brilliance, no fault to be attached other than failing to show the necessary ruthlessness this level requires. Had Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah converted their golden chances, it would’ve been a very different tale from Barcelona.
Good performance, bad result
Just like Manchester United did in the quarter-finals, Liverpool had their chances to translate their dominance onto the scoreline. James Milner had two efforts well stopped by Marc-André ter Stegen before Sadio Mane should’ve turned in from Jordan Henderson’s long ball and Mohamed Salah had the chance to tap home but instead saw his effort cannon off the post.
A goal was all that was lacking from the performance, restricting Barcelona to just one shot in the second-half prior to Messi’s flurry of goals while Liverpool flexed their attacking muscles, attempting to break down a resilient defence.
Undoubtedly a poor result that leaves Liverpool with a hard reality of not winning a trophy in their record breaking season, Jurgen Klopp’s side will take some confidence from their efforts into next week, with his side ready to battle until the bitter end in their quest for silverware.
Joe Gomez struggles exacerbated by lack of support
It was a big call to shoehorn Gomez back into right-back instead of Trent Alexander-Arnold, arguably reflecting Klopp’s awareness to Barcelona’s wealth of attacking riches. The Englishman was a reliable and regular performer for the club prior to his injury layoff and certainly possessed the quality to return to the side with a strong performance.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t forthcoming. Gomez struggled to contend with Barcelona’s attack, with the overlapping runs of Jordi Alba getting in behind time and time again. The Spaniard was afforded time and space, providing a consistent out ball and leaving Gomez in a precarious two vs one scenario. A tough night for him and the team, he wasn’t helped by a lack of support from his midfielders, who were slow to come across and close down the avenues.
As for the attacking third, a lack of ruthless quality akin to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s crossing cost the Reds on the night, with a series of overhit passes squandering notable chances.