Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# On the box
TV Wrap: Even Jose Mourinho swoons for Liverpool on remarkable Anfield night
George Hamilton got his prediction (almost) right while Jurgen Klopp was stuck for words.

ONE OF THOSE nights that Anfield lifts itself into a kind of demented realm in which really only the word ‘fuck’ will do.

“I am not native so I don’t have better words for it,” said Jurgen Klopp, having been told off by BT Sport for describing his players as “fucking mentality giants.”

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Anfield Martin Rickett Jurgen Klopp celebrates with Virgil van Dijk and Mo Salah. Martin Rickett

Still, if you’d bet on anyone to find the words to wield matters as fantastical as last night’s, it’s George Hamilton.

RTÉ did a decent job of building a case for an Anfield turnaround ahead of kick-off, with George returning to football’s deepest well of hope – Istanbul – to hint that maybe, just maybe, Liverpool might pull this off.

Their case was weakened a bit by a pre-game package showing Divock Origi missing a couple of one-on-ones against Panama, having galloped through the gaps of a defence presumably constructed in homage to the canal.

“Boos for Suarez” confirmed George as the game kicked off, and it was difficult to figure out whether Phillippe Coutinho was met with the same reception given his participation in the game remains an allegation.

“If you want noise, listen to this” said Jim Beglin as Origi then put Liverpool ahead after six minutes. 

He was then forced to reset his reference points when George roared “PENALTY!?” minutes later as Sadio Mane took a tumble in the box.

It wasn’t given, and a minute before the break Jim bravely ventured that all Liverpool needed was “a maybe” at half-time… and they were close to getting it.

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Anfield Martin Rickett A dejected Leo Messi. Martin Rickett

All was more definitive ten minutes into the second half, with Wijnaldum wheeling away having made it 3-0.

“What. Is. There. To. Say” asked George without the question mark.

“Istanbul comes to mind again” said Jim, with George confirming that “it’s spinning round in my head…Harry Kewell gets hurt, on comes Vladimir Smicer and it goes to penalties.”

Liverpool didn’t need penalties as Barcelona’s heads kept spinning, and Divock Origi swept home a winner sufficiently farcical to exist on its own, entirely separate plane of madness.

“It took everyone by surprise” said George…not least himself: he didn’t remember to fit in a classic ‘In many ways that doesn’t change Barcelona’s task’ when explaining the ramifications for the aggregate score.

By full-time George was still rhapsodising on Barca’s pitiful concession, saying that their dozy defence can now “sleep all the way through the final.”

Elsewhere, BT Sport’s Des Kelly strode into the bedlam and then got swept away by it, telling Divock Origi that “Robbo got kicked out of the game by Luis Suarez”.

“Who’s in the final?” was Robbo’s response when Des raised the issue again.

On Virgin Media, Graeme Souness called it the greatest European night of Anfield’s history, but despite the weight of the moment, he simply couldn’t hide his disgust for lacklustre men.

Recalling Ronnie Moran’s instruction to “find the dope” on the opposition team when looking back at the fourth goal, he proclaimed that Barcelona are, indeed, a “team of dopes.”

Beside him, Niall Quinn boldly went where few men have gone before.

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“As good as Messi is, he is stopping other players from producing their best…it may be time for Barcelona to look elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, in a refrigerated galaxy far, far away, Bein Sport’s Jose Mourinho proved these nights are not without their heresy.

Having once derided Liverpool for winning nothing under Jurgen Klopp; moaning that they had been built up as the “eighth wonder of the world”, he was moved to betray his own cantankerous dribblings.

“But I have to say that for me, this has one name – Jurgen. ‘I think this is not about tactics, this is not about philosophy, this is about heart and soul, and a fantastic empathy he created with this group of players.

They had the risk of finishing a fantastic season without anything to celebrate, and now they are one step from being European champions. ‘I think Jurgen deserves, you know, the work they are doing in Liverpool is fantastic.

“But I think this is about him, this is a reflection of his personality, don’t give up, a fighting spirit, every playing giving everything.

“He’s not crying because he’s missing a player, he’s not crying because they are playing 50 or 60 matches per season.

“Other coaches in other leagues they are crying, saying their players are playing too many matches when they play 30 or 35 matches. ‘Everything I think today is about Jurgen’s mentality.”

A day after they probably and powerlessly lost the Premier League, the fates relented for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Despite giving the game’s best player a three-goal headstart, they are through to a second-straight European Cup final and they’ve won Jose Mourinho over in doing it.

No wonder, then, that Gary Lineker reacted as he did to Klopp’s interview.

“I’ve been asked to apologise on his behalf – I’m not going to. I think he’s perfectly entitled to after that.”

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