Europa League Classics: Liverpool 4-3 Dortmund

You can watch Liverpool's rousing quarter-final comeback IN FULL on UEFA.tv.

Dejan Lovren celebrates his dramatic late winner
Dejan Lovren celebrates his dramatic late winner Getty Images

Liverpool went in for half-time needing three goals to keep alive their European ambitions. For many they stood no chance but we ought to have known better.

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Context

There was only one team expected to win going into the first installment of 'El Kloppico', and it wasn't the one led by the man returning to his former German employers after just a few months away. "I'm pretty sure a lot of people thought we would lose 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0," conceded Jürgen Klopp, whose new side were bogged down in mid-table in the Premier League.

First-leg highlights: Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool
First-leg highlights: Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool

Yet Liverpool came away with a draw, the action on the pitch almost as unified as the stirring rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone, both clubs' pre-match tune, before kick-off. The Reds led through Divock Origi, and the Belgian could have made it 2-0 before Mats Hummels restored parity. After that, the visitors were holding on – full time brought relief.

Key players

Dejan Lovren The reassuring pillar at the heart of a defence that had suffered problems with leaking goals all season. He had managed a solitary goal in 66 previous appearances for the Reds.

James Milner Once a precocious wonderkid who set pulses racing, Milner matured into an unsung hero content with keeping everything flowing. In his first season at Anfield, his leadership and drive were already key for the club.

Jürgen Klopp Liverpool's charismatic coach was still in his first season at Anfield – he had, of course, spent the previous seven years at Dortmund and the Reds would need all his knowledge and experience.

Top ten 2015/16 UEFA Europa League goals
Top ten 2015/16 UEFA Europa League goals

What happened?

Unperturbed by the heated atmosphere, Dortmund burst out of the blocks. Inside nine minutes they had a sturdy-looking 3-1 aggregate advantage courtesy of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; by the interval, having held firm, that lead was quickly cementing.

So Liverpool found themselves needing to score three second-half goals to have any hope – it had a familiar ring. Shortly after the interval, Origi gave them hope, only for Reus's fine finish to send the travelling fans into raptures once more.

Still Liverpool attacked. Philippe Coutinho's trademark strike cut the deficit and Mamadou Sakho found the net late on to set up a grandstand finish. Who would be the hero? Step forward Dejan Lovren, the centre-back etching his name into Anfield folklore with an added-time winner.

Reaction

Lovren: We never stopped believing
Lovren: We never stopped believing

Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool manager: "I reminded the players about Liverpool being 3-0 down in the [2005] Champions League final. It was brilliant, outstanding, emotional."

Divock Origi, Liverpool forward: "The coach said we had to create a moment to tell our grandchildren or children about, to make a special night for the fans. When we scored the first goal, we all felt it would be a special moment."

Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund coach: "If you expect an explanation, I have to disappoint you. It was not logical."

Elsewhere that evening

Anfield did not have a monopoly on the UEFA Europa League drama. Some 1,800km due south, Sevilla and Athletic Club went to penalties after trading 2-1 wins, the holders triumphing 5-4. Yet while Liverpool and Sevilla had to slug it out until the very end, Shakhtar Donetsk and Villarreal rather cruised through after landing early knockout blows.

Aftermath

2016 final highlights: Sevilla 3-1 Liverpool
2016 final highlights: Sevilla 3-1 Liverpool

Dortmund realigned their sights on the domestic double, but ultimately fell just short on both fronts to old nemesis Bayern. For Liverpool the UEFA Europa League was their last hope of silverware and a UEFA Champions League spot. They safely negotiated Villarreal in the semis but Sevilla proved too strong in the final. A disappointing end to a lacklustre first season for Klopp – there wouldn't be many more of those.

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