12 Days of Christmas: Liverpool's Champions League run

Yahoo Sport UK
Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final thrilled their fans, entertained neutrals, and made their rivals wary.
Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final thrilled their fans, entertained neutrals, and made their rivals wary.

The 2017/18 Champions League season was the first time Liverpool had dined at Europe’s top table in three years, and for just the second time since 2010.

They set about making up for lost time, overcoming an inconsistent start to march into the final playing a brand of high octane football that thrilled their fans, entertained neutrals and forced their rivals to sit up and take notice.

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That Klopp’s men made it after an underwhelming group stage made it even more surprising.

After cruising past Hoffenheim in the qualifying round Liverpool had been handed an easy group on paper, drawing Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor. However, that didn’t stop them making hard work of it.

The Reds started with two underwhelming draws, at home to Sevilla when Roberto Firmino missed a penalty, and away to Spartak. But it was their third match where they showed their rivals what they were capable of.

Liverpool blitzed Maribor 7-0 in Slovenia as Firmino and Mohamed Salah scored doubles. It is the biggest away win by any English side in the history of the Champions League, and the Reds completed humiliation at Anfield, winning the return fixture 3-0.

They looked to be continuing that form in their return match at Sevilla when they went into halftime 3-0 to the good. However, in a collapse that hinted at future danger, Sevilla scored three second half goals to escape with a 3-3 draw.

The Reds remained top of the group however, and then bounced back to to inflict another 7-0 thrashing, this time on Spartak to confirm top spot.

Sadio Mane’s hat-trick against Porto in the Round of 16 first leg tie ensured Liverpool won 5-0 on aggregate; but there were bigger fish to fry as Manchester City loomed in the quarterfinals.

City were blitzing the league and would go on to win the title by 19 points, but Klopp beat Pep Guardiola’s side 3-0 at Anfield.

The second leg was a tense affair, Gabriel Jesus scored in just the second minute before City turned up the pressure and had a Leroy Sane goal ruled out for offside. But with Guardiola sent to the stands and City forced to chase the game, second half goals from Salah and Firmino ensured Liverpool ran out 5-1 aggregate winners.

Roma were the semi final opponents and a pair of double from Salah and Firmino helped put Liverpool 5-0 up and they looked home and hosed after 80 minutes. However two goals in four minutes meant the Serie A side picked up two precious away goals in Liverpool’s 5-2 win.

In Italy, Liverpool were up 6-3 on aggregate at halftime and 45 minutes away from the final.

Mane scored early to put Liverpool in the lead but a calamitous Dejan Lovren lead to a James Milner own goal. Georginio Wijnaldum‘s goal meant Roma would have to find an unlikely four second half goals to advance.

What followed though was nearly a historic collapse. Edin Dzeko and Radja Nainggolan each scored to put Roma in the hunt, before Ragnar Klavan was harshly penalised in injury time. Nainggolan scored the penalty, meaning Roma were one goal away from advancing on away goals, but Klopp’s men clung on as time ran out.

Salah injured his shoulder in this challenge from Ramos
Salah injured his shoulder in this challenge from Ramos

After an even start in Kiev, the Champions League final turned in the 30th minute when Salah was injured in a controversial challenge from Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. The injury forced Liverpool’s star player out of the final and almost out of the World Cup.

Ramos was involved in another controversial moment in the second half. His collision with Lorius Karius left the Reds goalkeeper with a concussion which may have played its in his erratic performance.

Karius rolled the ball directly into the path of Karim Benzema to give Madrid the lead, and while Mane equalised shortly after, Bale gave the LaLiga giants in front again with his stunning overhead kick. Karius then confirmed Liverpool’s defeat when he let Bale’s long-range shot burst through his hands.

In the end, Liverpool fell just short. But fans won’t forget the journey that took them all the way to Kiev.

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