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Liverpool, England’s shambolic best hope

No one remembers how Liverpool got to the 2005 Champions League final. Successfully coming back from 3-0 down is where the story begins and ends.

In truth, the champions almost didn’t make it out of the group stages. The Reds needed to beat Olympiacos by two goals in their final group game. Then the legendary Rivaldo dribbled at the defence, went to ground on the edge of the box and converted the resultant free kick.

The comeback was spectacular. But the fact it was needed showed how wild this team was. Superb, reckless.

In many ways, Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp’s approach is the antithesis of Rafael Benítez’s. The 2018 version can deliver consistent results, unheard of 13 years ago. This side has the concentration to do what’s required in the day-to-day games.

Where the parallels are stark, however, is when millions more eyes tune into the big occasion.

Just like the night Rivaldo threatened to disrupt history, Liverpool will force their supporters to endure whiplash. Their running football means they’ll leave holes for the big boys to run into. They proved it again this week in Europe’s grandest competition.

Daniel Sturridge almost looked confused when he headed the ball into goal for the opener.

After James Milner slotted in a penalty for 2-0 you knew this wasn’t over. The Reds’ back line were trying to make the game as difficult as possible. It’s the only explanation for why they watched the ball as it floated across onto Thomas Meunier’s half-volley. Mohamed Salah then gave the ball away for an easy counter.

But Liverpool’s third goal, when James Milner’s hunger to win the ball back instead of settling for a draw, is the type of hustling Steven Gerrard implemented. Roberto Firmino’s determination is reminiscent of Luis García’s ability as the final drew near.

This team will either crash or ride that speed right into the latter rounds. But there will be no dying with a whimper here.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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