LONDON • Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp revealed he had invoked the spirit of the club's famous Champions League fightback in Istanbul to inspire his team to a Europa League victory over Borussia Dortmund.
Down 0-2 at half-time in Thursday's quarter-final second leg, and 1-3 behind on aggregate, the German reminded his players of the night in May 2005 when the Reds came back from three goals down to overcome AC Milan in a penalty shoot-out.
Liverpool then returned to the Anfield pitch to produce one of the greatest halves of football in their history, scoring four times from their only four shots on target in the entire game.
Divock Origi, who started ahead of Daniel Sturridge, reduced the arrears three minutes after the restart. And although Marco Reus then struck back for Dortmund, goals from Philippe Coutinho and Mamadou Sakho teed up a storming finale that saw Dejan Lovren head home a stoppage-time winner to complete a 5-4 aggregate win.
"I told the lads I was not there, but a few Liverpool players who are a little bit older and work as experts for television, they were 3-0 down at half-time and won a Champions League final," Klopp said after the victory over his former club.
BE THERE TO BELIEVE IT
When we scored, everybody could see it ... You could hear it, you could feel it and you could smell it.
JUERGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, on the sensory side of his team's goals.
"Even when it's not really likely, it's for sure possible and we should try it. When we scored, everybody could see it - something happened in the stadium. You could hear it, you could feel it and you could smell it."
Liverpool had shown spirit before, they had shown style aplenty, but rarely had they shown substance of the type that was required to win on Thursday.
"It's an amazing feeling. It's one of the best games in the last two or three years," Lovren told BT Sport. "We never stopped believing in ourselves. It is a great effort from everyone. We didn't expect we would start like we did."
EUROPA LEAGUE S-FINALS
Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukr) v Sevilla (Esp)
Villarreal (Esp) v Liverpool (Eng)
1st leg: April 28. 2nd leg: May 5.
After 246 seconds the visitors were ahead in the tie when Henrikh Mkhitaryan converted from close range. Coutinho had unwittingly instigated the breakthrough with a careless pass deep in the Dortmund half but the speed of execution from Mkhitaryan, Shinji Kagawa and Gonzalo Castro was stunning.
Another polished move made it 2-0 after nine minutes. Reus breezed past two tame challenges in central midfield, threaded a pass behind Sakho and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang smacked his 37th goal of the season into the top corner.
The ease in which the German side flew into the lead made their eventual defeat even harder to fathom. Just ask Thomas Tuchel, who succeeded Klopp as manager at Dortmund .
"If you expect an explanation, I probably have to disappoint you because an explanation would mean that things are logical or tactical or at least in moments you see where a game goes to the other side," he said. "None of this happened.
"We had a great reaction on the first goal of Liverpool and we scored a third one. With the equaliser it was an atmosphere where everybody, except our supporters, believed it was meant to be."
Liverpool will face Spanish side Villarreal in the semi-finals, and if they are to earn the right to win this competition a fourth time, Klopp will have to address the vulnerabilities in defence.
No matter what happens, however, the Reds have already - as Klopp encouraged them to at half-time - created "a moment that we could tell our children or grandchildren".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN