European nights are made for Liverpool, England’s most successful team in Europe. There is something about these nights that make not only the players but the fans stand up and be counted.
‘Oh you beauty!’ said in a thick Scottish accent immediately conjures up images of Steven Gerrard’s belter against Olympiakos in 2004, where Liverpool on the brink of disaster grabbed victory with both hands in the most spectacular of fashions. After Rivaldo scored in the 26th minute, Liverpool needed 3 to see their way into the next stages of the competition but no task was too much for them with Sinama Pongolle and Mellor both grabbing goals but they needed 1 more. With time running out Steven Gerrard let rip with a cracker and thus sealed the tie. Liverpool had done it.
Fast forward to the final of that season, Liverpool were 3-0 down at half time to a strong Milan side. If they could, the Milanistas would have been sipping champagne in the stands. Only 45 minutes to go and they would be European champions for the 7th time, simple?
Not at all! Most teams would have accepted their fate but not Liverpool. Instead they showed their pedigree and produced a comeback that would surpass that of their rivals Manchester United’s 1999 comeback against Bayern Munich.
With an inferior team but hearts of lions, Liverpool fought back to 3-3 and in football’s cruellest lottery would go on to win on penalties. The fight back was complete and Liverpool were European champions for the 5th time.
Then in the 2008 Champions League quarter final, after a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in the first leg, Liverpool seemed to be through to the semis as they lead Arsenal 2-1 but with 6 minutes to go the fresh legs of Theo Walcott raced up the field leaving a trail of Liverpool players in his wake, he played the ball to Adebayor who grabbed Arsenal’s 2nd and the crucial away goal that would now see Arsenal into the semi final but Liverpool had other plans.
Immediately they fired back with Ryan Babel breaking into the box being brought down by Kolo Toure and who else but Steven Gerrard slotted away the penalty to again put Liverpool back in the driving seat. But they weren’t finished Ryan Babel grabbed Liverpool’s 4th to completely kill off the tie and another remarkable comeback was complete.
Liverpool seem to be built for these occasions, it’s probably written into their player’s contracts: ‘Massive performances required on important European nights‘ but as important as the players are, the fans play an equally important role. Home and away they will back their team to the last minute with rousing renditions of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ and ‘Fields of Anfield Road’. Need proof?
Last season as the Champions League semi final looked a distant dream, it was not the Chelsea fans you could hear celebrating their teams potential step closer to the final in Rome, rather it was the travelling fans of Liverpool who sang their hearts out urging their team on, believing anything is possible until the final whistle is blown. In what was an impressive back and forth game, the attitude of the Liverpool fans that night will live long in the memories of anyone who was fortunate enough to see it.
So tonight with the odds stacked against a Liverpool team without the best striker in the world Fernando Torres, don’t expect anything less than a big performance from both players and fans. Their fate maybe out of their hands now but be assured that if Fiorentina fail to beat Lyon tonight in Florence, Liverpool will capitalise on their mistake and make them pay for it 2 weeks from now when the 2 teams meet at Anfield, in front of the Kop.
It has all the signatures of another magical Liverpool moment.