Liverpool in ‘greatest comeback since Lazarus’

Fightback: The first time, since 1986, that a team has recovered a three-goal first-leg deficit.

What happens when sport achieves greatness? Last night, Jurgen Klopp’s men overturned a 3-0 deficit to beat the best team in the world. Today, it is being hailed as the miracle of Anfield.

Twenty-two men chase a ball around a rectangle for 90 minutes. In the end, somebody wins. It really can’t matter that much.

But then it does. And when it does, it seems to matter more than anything. More than Brexit, more than tension in the Gulf, more than the collapse of the markets, more even than baby Sussex who seems to have won the heart of America, and have the whole world in raptures.

It helps solve one of the mysteries of journalism: why are the best writers with the biggest salaries working for the back of the paper, not the front? The answer, of course, is that most people read the back page first — the sports page.

The world is a topsy-turvy place. Our heads know what really matters: climate change, inequality, poverty, war. But our hearts crave something else: stories with heroes, villains, triumph, struggle, tragedy and redemption. Sport gives us that distilled.

Aptly (given today’s news), it was a Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, who summed it up: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Just savour the top sport writers this morning.

Here’s Henry Winter in The Times. “Unbelievable, unforgettable. For years to come, Liverpool fans will recall with pride and joy what their passionate, inspired team did here on the greatest night in Anfield’s long and illustrious history. Liverpool overturned the 50-1 odds, they overwhelmed the great Lionel Messi, they overcame vaunted Barcelona. They reached the Champions League final when few outside Anfield gave them a chance.”

And Paul Hayward in The Telegraph. “The craziest shredding of the odds you could wish to see. The most brutal tearing down of an aura (Barcelona’s). The best recreation of Istanbul in a British city.”

Here’s Martin Samuel in The Daily Mail. “At the end of this wonderful, unbelievable, fantastical game, Jurgen Klopp linked arms with his players, facing the Kop as the whole of Anfield, including some among the bereft Catalan enclave, sung You’ll Never Walk Alone. One had the feeling this was the moment he had been working towards since the day he set foot on Merseyside. This spirit. This togetherness. This performance. This passion, this emotion. It was all here, every last drop of what he wanted to achieve.”

A modern Greek tragedy?

Can Aristotle explain it? He defined Greek tragedy as “an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of [a certain] magnitude, by means of language enriched [with ornaments], each used separately in the different parts [of the play]; it is enacted not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief to such and similar emotions.”

Isn’t that right? Isn’t football important? Just witness the passions that it elicits and the cash it produces. Isn’t it an enactment of controlled violence with real human beings? And, crucially, doesn’t it allow for the catharsis of emotions? Though we may watch from the safety of a living room or a stadium, isn’t football famously an emotional roller coaster that brings forth feelings of joy, anger, disappointment, elation or dejection?

You Decide

  1. Does football matter as much as politics?
  2. For humans, are stories more important than facts?

Activities

  1. Think back to the most dramatic day of your life. Imagine you are writing a postcard to a friend. Describe what happened and how you felt.
  2. Read some of the match reports about this game in the Expert Links. Now, try writing your own version with a headline and the first three paragraphs. Include details about who, what, when, where, how?

Some People Say...

“The closest most people come to pure contemplation is in the beholding of a good game, in being fascinated with the play, the strategy, the uncertainty of its results.”

James Vincent Schall

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Liverpool has reached its ninth European Cup/Champions League final — only Real Madrid (16), Milan (11) and Bayern Munich (10) have reached more. They are the first English side to reach back-to-back Champions League finals since Manchester United in 2008 and 2009. This was just the fourth time a team has overturned a three-or-more goal deficit from the first leg of a Champions League (not European Cup) knockout tie to progress. Barcelona was also on the receiving end the last time (against Roma last season). Barcelona have now been eliminated from three of their past four Champions League semi-final ties.
What do we not know?
What next? Liverpool will seek another success against the odds when they return to Premier League action on Sunday. The team hosts Wolves in its final game of the season, hoping results go its way to turn around a one-point deficit and take the title from Manchester City.

Word Watch

Anfield
Liverpool’s stadium in Anfield, Liverpool. It has a seating capacity of 54,074, making it the seventh-largest football stadium in the UK.
Istanbul
Known as “the miracle of Istanbul”, the 2005 Champions League Final was between Liverpool and the favourites, Milan. It was 3-0 to Milan by half-time. But in the second half, Liverpool launched a comeback and scored three goals in a dramatic six-minute spell to level the scores at 3–3. The match went to a penalty shootout which Liverpool won 3-2.
Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool’s manager. He describes himself as “the normal one”.
Kop
A terrace behind one of the goals at Anfield. It was built in 1906, as a reward to the fans after Liverpool had clinched their second league championship. The name came from a small hill in South Africa known as Spion Kop where, in January 1900, during the Boer war, a battle left hundreds dead.
Aristotle
A towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, he wrote about logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who studied under Socrates.
Catharsis
Relief.