For the second year in a row, Barcelona have crashed out of the Champions League in epic fashion after suffering a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in their Champions League semifinals second leg on Tuesday night at Anfield in Liverpool.
Holding a 3-0 lead going into Tuesday night’s contest, Barcelona conjured up their worst performance of the season against a Liverpool side that were sensational from start to finish.
Outside of a brief spell in the middle of the first half, Lionel Messi was anonymous, while attacking partner Luis Suarez could not have had an unhappier return to Anfield. The Uruguayan striker was held in check by his former club, who put forth a masterful performance in the back.
Barcelona were plagued all night by giveaways and errors, with Jordi Alba and Ivan Rakitic among the main culprits. After last season’s stunning capitulation at Roma, the future of manager Ernesto Valverde will undoubtedly be on very shaky ground after this collapse, despite his league and domestic cup accomplishments.
Valverde went with the same starting XI from the first leg, which meant Arturo Vidal over Arthur in midfield and Sergi Roberto ahead of Semedo at right-back.
To no one’s surprise, Liverpool came charging out of the gates and an error from Alba minutes later gave Liverpool the opening they needed, as an ill-advised back-pass was pounced on by Sadio Mane, who fed Jordan Henderson and after an initial block from Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen on Henderson’s initial effort, Divock Origi was there to sweep in the rebound for a 1-0 Liverpool lead.
Barcelona were a shell of themselves. Their nervy start was reflected by their uncharacteristic play of hoofing up long balls rather than playing from the back, through the midfield and up into attack.
Valverde’s men finally started working their way into the match and soon enough had several cracks at goal, including a chance when Alba was all alone in front of goal but opted to play back to Messi instead of shooting and the Argentine’s shot was blocked.
The rest of the first half didn’t have the same chances, but the feeling was just as intense and Anfield was still brimming with belief in another two goals when the second stanza began. They almost got their wish on the first, as a corner kick swung in was almost knocked in by Van Dijk, who had Clement Lenglet hanging all over him, but Ter Stegen alertly made the save.
But the German stopper was not as fortunate at the next time of asking as Wijnaldum powered in a shot from after a cross deflected off of Ivan Rakitic, pulling Liverpool to within 2-3 on aggregate.
The ghosts of Roma started creeping onto the Anfield pitch and Barcelona’s worst nightmare was realised when an unmarked Wijnaldum rose above everyone else and smacked a header in past Ter Stegen to make it 3-3 in the tie, sending Anfield into absolute pandemonium.
Valverde turned to his bench to try to wrestle back control, so Semedo was summoned to replace the ineffective Coutinho and later on it was Arthur replacing Vidal.
But what would happen next to Barcelona was downright astounding, especially at such a critical juncture. Into the final quarter-hour, Barcelona completely went to sleep on a corner kick that Liverpool’s Alexander Arnold took quickly and played to Origi, who swung in a shot past Ter Stegen to improbably make it 4-3 to Liverpool in the tie.
Barcelona were staring at down the barrel at total humiliation and were now obligated to heave everything at the Liverpool defence. But after being dormant for the large majority of this affair, Barcelona did not have the goods to secure the goal that would have seen them through, and they could only slump off the Anfield pitch in utter disbelief at the sound of the final whistle to bring their European campaign to a sudden end.
4.- Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson (Wijnaldum, min. 46), Fabinho, Milner, Henderson, Shaqiri (Sturridge, min. 90), Mane, Origi (Joe Gomez, min. 83).
0.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Rakitic (Malcom, min. 81), Vidal (Arthur, min. 74), Coutinho (Semedo, min. 60), Messi, Luis Suarez.
Goals: 1-0, min. 7: Henderson; 2-0, min. 54: Wijnaldum; 3-0, min. 56: Wijnaldum; 4-0, min. 79: Origi
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey) Yellow Cards: Fabinho (Min. 12) for Liverpool, Busquets (Min. 45+1) for Barcelona, Rakitic (Min. 53) for Barcelona, Matip (Min. 66) for Liverpool, Semedo (Min. 75) for Barcelona
Red cards: None