For the fourth season in a row, Liverpool will see Champions League action at Anfield.
The proud stadium is known worldwide for its wonderful atmosphere, magical footballing moments and extensive history. Renditions of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ ring out every week, but they seem louder and more poignant on those European nights under the lights.
World Soccer Talk reports that AC Milan will be the first team to visit the stadium for the 2021/22 season’s competition, in a rerun of one of the most famous Champions League comebacks in history. Jürgen Klopp will hope it is the starting point for a successful campaign; his side are ranked as favourites with Coral to emerge from a group also containing Porto and Atletico Madrid. It certainly won’t be easy, although Milan are not as strong as the side that played a supporting role in arguably the most memorable Champions League final of a generation.
That was back in 2005, a game in which the Reds trailed 3-0 at half time. Paolo Maldini and a double from Hernan Crespo seemingly had the Italians on course for a victory, but Liverpool bounced back with three second-half goals before winning on penalties. It was a famous night of European football and is the one comeback that grabs the headlines.
What of comebacks at Anfield? There have been plenty over the years, not only in the Champions League but also in the old European Cup. Here are some of the best to enjoy once again.
Saint Etienne 1976/77
Long before Istanbul, Jürgen Klopp and even Kenny Dalglish, there was the fabled Red Machine, a Liverpool side almost invincible at home and abroad. Between 1973 and 1991, Liverpool won 11 First Division titles, finishing second seven times and lifting the European Cup four times.
The first of those triumphs came in 1976/77, but they almost didn’t make it. After breezing past Crusaders 7-0 on aggregate, then brushing aside Trabzonspor 3-1, they came up against Saint Etienne in the quart final. They trailed 1-0 from the away leg, and despite scoring early in the second leg they were quickly pinned back. With away goals counting double, the Reds needed two to win against a team that had only conceded once in their previous nine games. Before super-sub David Fairclough won the tie, Ray Kennedy bagged a leveller and set the Reds on course for the first of many European Cups.
If Saint Etienne enabled the eighties Liverpool dominance, then a chilly night at Anfield in the 2004/05 group stage enabled the Milan comeback. The Reds needed to beat Greek side Olympiakos by two clear goals in the final group game, but Brazilian legend Rivaldo quickly put the visitors 1-0 up. All seemed lost, but Liverpool hit back. Florent Sinama-Pongolle got Liverpool’s first, then Neil Mellor scored a second. Finally, it came down to a Steven Gerrard wonder strike. Rafa’s team were out of the group stages, and they never looked back.
With so many famous nights at Anfield, it seems crass to pinpoint one as the greatest, but the Champions League semi-final in 2019 must be close. The great Barcelona side, boasting Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique, had already won 3-0 at the Nou Camp in front of 98,000 fans. The second leg seemed a formality, nothing more than a walk in the park for the Spanish side.
Liverpool went into the game with hope and 52,000 supporters behind them. Divick Origi got the Reds off to a great start after seven minutes, but the game really exploded after half time. Georginio Wijnaldum, on as a sub, bagged a quick brace to level the tie sensationally. With 10 minutes left, a cheeky short corner routine saw Origi bag a second and create a story that will be remembered forever.