A first Champions League semi-final in a decade – and it could not feel any sweeter. A 5-1 aggregate win over the Premier League champions-elect Manchester City sent The Reds into the last four and within touching distance of another European final.
The first half at The Etihad was nerve-wracking to say the least, but Klopp’s side came out revitalised and composed in the second and dispatched Guardiola’s men after what can only be described as a brilliant performance over the two legs.
The result and progression further in Europe’s elite competition is further testament to how far this Liverpool team has come under the guidance of Jürgen Klopp. Since the charismatic German arrived on Merseyside in October 2015, the development of his side has been nothing short of breath-taking.
One of the first things he said to Reds fans the world over was that he wanted to turn doubters into believers. There was no question that many Kopites believed that Klopp could bring a degree of success back to Anfield. After all, this was a man that had guided his Borussia Dortmund side to two successive Bundesliga titles, two German domestic cups and narrowly missing out on 2013 Champions League glory with a 2-1 defeat again Bayern Munich in final at Wembley.
Klopp’s work at Dortmund was a project, being at the helm at Dortmund for seven years and enjoying the majority of their trophy success after a few seasons had passed and Klopp’s style, ideas and vision for the side finally started coming together – and with it bringing glory and silverware.
If we also remember correctly, Klopp said in his first press conference as manager of Liverpool Football Club that he too hoped he could bring titles within five or six years but that he needed the fans to get behind him and give him that time; to stop being doubters.
Since then, seasons have largely consisted of overwhelming highs - such as resounding victories over the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs, getting back into the top four, and fantastic European nights against Klopp’s former employers Dortmund and United – but also some frustrating, depressing lows, like losing and drawing against teams like Burnley, Swansea and Newcastle, being in contention for the title before failing to win a game in January. It has been a rollercoaster ride under Klopp.
But this season, it looks as though the side has turned a corner. There’s togetherness about the squad, those frustrating draws seem to be a far less frequent occurrence, consistency seems to be there and defensive frailties are being addressed. Combine that with the potent attack that Klopp has put together and you’ve got the ingredients for success.
The feel around Anfield is also very good, not just from a fan’s perspective. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard spoke on BT Sport after The Reds progressed to the semi-final about how there’s a buzz around the place, an energy, like something special is in the offing.
All of Klopp’s work in his two-and-a-half-year stint as Liverpool manager came to the fore last night (April 10th) with that performance against an ‘all-conquering’ City side. Their attacking threats of Silva and Sané were nullified by the brilliant Robertson and Alexander-Arnold (who are both further testament to Klopp’s Liverpool – a youngster coming good and a shrewd piece of business by the German who is now reaping the benefits from these wing backs). Although City enjoyed all kinds of possession, the threat on Karius’ goal was minimal and when there was a threat, it was snuffed out by the defence. The front three were clinical – Salah and Firmino both had one chance and converted them. When the team was under immense pressure with their back against the wall, every player on the pitch stood tall and made it count when in previous years the side would have crumbled.
I must admit, after that first leg I was so pleased with the result but still felt uneasy even with a 3-0 aggregate lead. I doubted if we would come through the tie. But now I believe that we can beat anyone, I don’t fear anyone but think that anyone else will fear facing us.
Klopp’s working his magic. I’m a believer and I suspect many, many more are, especially after last night. The rest of this Champions League campaign will one heck of a ride – as will the entirety of next season.
Strap yourselves in folks, we’re about to move up a gear.