Liverpool found themselves straying into unknown territory against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona

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A brief stroll from the Palau Reial metro station by way of Les Corts entails the negotiation of a concrete realm. Beneath brooding condo blocks are disused automotive parks the place migrants, on non-match days, play cricket utilizing visitors cones and tennis balls. Additional downhill is a gray bowl of a sporting venue which doesn’t seem like it could actually maintain practically 100,000 folks. From the surface, solely a 3rd of the Nou Camp is seen and also you marvel what the entire fuss is about.

Barcelona, although, is a type of cities the place a lot occurs on shadowy facet streets and alleyways. There are tales past the light twitching curtains and up winding metal stairs. Realities are usually not all the time mirrored by what occurs within the grandest sq..

The Nou Camp digs deep into the earth, creating an unbelievable huge house which might solely be appreciated when previous its heaving iron gates and into its centre. A soccer Backyard of Eden, a paradise is there however is healthier as a result of it doesn’t give indication of it coming, except – after all – you already know in regards to the historical past of the place.

Liverpool as a membership knew. It remembered its final go to when Rafael Benitez performed Alvaro Arbeloa at left again as a result of he needed to chop out the diagonal runs of Lionel Messi. Benitez picked him as a result of he was proper footed and foremost, a very good defender. It labored.

Liverpool in its present type knew much less. Jurgen Klopp had by no means coached a group right here. James Milner had include Manchester Metropolis, shedding narrowly twice and there was no disgrace in that. Alisson Becker had performed for AS Roma final season, as had Virgil van Dijk with Celtic years earlier than. They conceded ten between them. Although that may occur as properly, it felt outstanding that none of these objectives have been scored by Messi. He performed in opposition to Roma however not in opposition to Celtic when he was injured. It meant this was Van Dijk’s first expertise of attempting to cease the world’s best participant within the habitat the place he feels most comfortable.

Klopp had been passionate about Liverpool’s probabilities, saying Barcelona had by no means confronted a facet like his. But that meant Liverpool had additionally not confronted Barcelona, a group which has the magic of Messi.

There was a second within the first half the place he determined it was doable to begin an assault from the best again place. He got here at pace, flicking previous Milner then Andy Robertson, slipping into Liverpool’s half. Solely a foul might cease him. Van Dijk was within the center distance, pre-occupied by one other aspect of the Camp Nou that Liverpool knew all about. That aspect was Luis Suarez.

His presence meant Messi versus the world’s most costly defender turned a type of contests that symbolised what was occurring however in additional of an oblique means. Messi as a substitute tried to play on Joel Matip and this meant he was afforded wider freedoms, although Matip tried his greatest and delivered a good efficiency.

Suarez, in the meantime, buzzed round Van Dijk like a dragon fly within the temper to sting something that got here close to him. He stays a bloody menace, simply as a lot of a nuisance as he all the time has been. Within the first half alone, he tried to get Milner booked and argued with Alisson. It was the form of dialogue which instructed he was prepared to kind it out afterwards in a type of automotive parks close to to the bottom.

Suarez irritated Van Dijk, who remonstrated with the Dutch referee after the Uruguayan chopped into Milner. Once more there was finger pointing and dialogue. Van Dijk couldn’t relaxation, although his focus slipped. One of many explanation why he was not picked up sooner by a membership that meets his commonplace pertains to hazard and the way in which he was not all the time in a position to scent it shortly sufficient. The scouts that watched him play for Groningen thought he switched off. He’s a lot better now however he noticed Suarez transfer to satisfy Jordi Alba’s cross when it was 0-0. In a flash, Barcelona had a lead. 

The primary half was enthralling, relentless and exhausting. The second half was unremitting in its tempo and ambition. On probabilities, Liverpool mustn’t have been behind on the break. Theirs was not a efficiency that merited a 3-Zero defeat. But Liverpool have meted out related lashings on opponents who’ve come at them, like they did at Barcelona so that they appreciated the related dangers, absolutely.

They know in regards to the worth of the away purpose within the Champions League as a result of this season they’ve knocked out two groups who failed to attain at Anfield regardless of forcing the clear alternatives. They know the way it hinders the probabilities of development.

Even with the glory of Messi’s second-half free kick, the sense of reduction contained in the Nou Camp when Mohamed Salah’s shot clanked in opposition to the put up with ten minutes remaining was monumental.

This was Van Dijk’s first expertise enjoying in opposition to Lionel Messi on the Nou Camp (Getty Photographs)

The ultimate act of the night time was met with curious response. Ousmane Dembele ought to have prolonged Barcelona’s result in 4 and that, it’s truthful to say, would have been that for this tie. His effort, although, was horrible and it left Messi beating the ground in frustration. Again close to the half means line, Sergio Busquets waved his arms as he screamed at his teammate for not being extra ruthless. Someplace within the midst was van Dijk, clenching a fist and he embraced with Alisson. It was the tiniest of victories for Liverpool. 

Alisson, after all, is aware of about what it’s prefer to lose by three objectives on this stadium. 13 months in the past, he helped Roma by way of to the semi-finals of the identical competitors following an unlikely turnaround in Italy. That reminiscence offers a reference for Liverpool however their hope is slim.

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