Thomas Tuchel has been a lucky man who has witnessed one of those iconic nights at Anfield when Liverpool put up a show that was made in heaven. But he has to be the luckiest person who has been a first-hand witness of this priceless show not only once but twice.
However, he has always been on the losing side in each of his two visits to Anfield with squads that would raise a lot of eyebrows. One thing that still remains common in between his two trips to the Merseyside stadium is the characteristic late goal that would clinch the stakes from Tuchel. Tuesday night was witness to one of those meaty European clashes that any ardent football fan would wait for as Tuchel’s PSG took on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, a team that has been making their own headlines since the season began.
Had this clash taken place a couple of years back, one could easily count Liverpool out of the contest even before the kickoff but things were completely different this time. Despite Neymar ruling them out for the top 4 race in the English Premier League, Liverpool had an edge over PSG going into this match just for the fact that they were playing at Anfield which has been their fortress.
The flavor of this mouthwatering clash somehow faded a bit with Roberto Firmino sitting out on the bench as a precautionary measure for an eye injury sustained against Spurs which meant a first start for Daniel Sturridge in the Champions League in Liverpool colors. And the Three Lions forward did not disappoint, marking his first start with a goal on the half-hour mark. Liverpool doubled their lead through James Milner as the midfielder calmly slotted home a penalty past Alphonse Areola. PSG however, made hard-fought efforts to bounce back and Meunier got a goal back just before the halftime break. However, Liverpool kept dominating the game with veteran James Milner winning the midfield battles for Liverpool alongside Georginio Wijnaldum.PSG’s lack of quality in the midfield was eminent but Tuchel’s side weren’t done yet as World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe took advantage of a mistake from Mohamed Salah and netted home the equalizer for PSG.
Though Mbappe went into jubilant celebrations after his equalizer he was made to regret his Kop end salute and that too in some style. For the first time in many years, Liverpool went into a game with much enviable bench housing names like Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and Bobby Firmino. Among these three top players, one man has been a witness of this transition of Liverpool into a defiant outfit is Roberto Firmino and happens to be a man who has also undergone transition himself. When he arrived from Hoffenheim, Firmino was one of those attacking options that usually would’ve slotted behind the number 9 but things are always different with Jurgen Klopp as your manager. In the hunt for a number 9, Klopp decided to slot Bobby into the centre-forward, a move that typically made him a makeshift centre-forward or what they call a “False Nine” in footballing terms. While there remain tons of instances where players have encountered serious meltdown in their careers in frantic attempts at adapting to this role, Bobby happens to be an exception in this trend.
“ Sadio Mane, world class but not every day. Mohamed Salah, world class but not every day. Roberto Firmino, world-class every day ”– Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager.
This is what manager Jurgen Klopp has to say about his number nine highlighting Firmino’s importance in Jurgen Klopp’s brand of heavy metal football. Salah and Mane might grab all the headlines on their respective days but behind their flourishing pace and eye-catching goals, there is Bobby Firmino who would track back to the midfield to win balls from the opposition and initiate the attacks what still happens to be the dirty job. But this dirty job comes with a touch of class and chivalry. Everybody remembers Firmino’s back heel pass to assist Salah away at Southampton, a sight that typifies the grace and intelligence that the forward posses on and off the ball. And it was Firmino’s intelligence that Liverpool were missing against PSG time and again and with the match tied at 2-2 Firmino had to be Jurgen Klopp’s last throw of the dice to salvage all 3 points for the Reds and Bobby did not disappoint.
The Reds have always been famous for winning it late and this time it was again two of their “working class” heroes who combined for the late winner. While Kylian Mbappe looked to launch a counter-attack to grab a memorable win for PSG, James Milner crucial tackle on him meant that Liverpool had possession with them. A couple of smooth touches to get inside the box before firing in a low shot straight into the bottom corner, to some it may be the ideal ending to the game for PSG’s poster boy Neymar but this, however, was the other way as a lesser known Brazilian took away the limelight from Brazil’s most talked about footballer of the moment.
This had to be the moment when Mbappe’s decorated knee slide following the equalizer was overshadowed by Bobby Firmino’s one-eyed celebration. This was one of those daily world-class performances that Firmino put forward when his team needed it the most.