BARCELONA players made their dejected way home knowing what awaited them after they capitulated 4-0 to a magnificent performance from Liverpool that knocked them out of the Champions League.
The Spanish press is unforgiving and having given away a three-goal lead after the first leg the reaction was going to be scathing.
And sure, enough El Pais led the way, saying that Barcelona, so dominant in La Liga, are “hopeless in Europe. Incorrigible” adding: “After the most sonorous victories happen the most bleeding defeats.”
Marca and a host of other news outlets questioned whether coach Valverde can survive such a crushing blow, especially as it is the second season in succession they have been knocked out in embarrassing circumstances. Last year they beat Roma 4-1 in the first leg of their semi-final only to succumb 3-0 in Rome.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Barcelona have been in imperious form with Lionel Messi playing some of the best football of his career. But despite the 3-0 lead they took to Anfield, last season’s loss to Roma was a warning of what could happen.
And of course, Liverpool are famous for never knowing when they are beaten. The Reds needed a strong start and that is what they got. They were fast out of the blocks to send the Anfield crowd – who had already generated a terrific atmosphere – wild when Divock Origi slotted home a rebound after Barca keeper Marc-André ter Stegen pushed out a shot from Jordan Henderson.
Barca looked shell shocked to start with, memories of Roma perhaps affecting them.
Liverpool were rampant but gradually the Barcelona team pulled together and started to play. Unfortunately for them Messi hadn’t quite brought his shooting boots, although he did force several fine saves.
Come the second half there was growing belief that if Liverpool could get a second goal then anything was possible. The second goal duly arrived through substitute Georginio Wijnaldum and then ‘anything’ did happen. Within two minutes the Dutchman scored a second to level the tie. Anfield was roaring before a clever bit of quick thinking from Trent Alexander-Arnold won the match. He placed the ball for a corner kick then walked away as if to leave it for someone else to take. But he spotted Origi in space as the Barca defence switched off, sprinted back to the ball and fired in a low cross for Origi to dispatch, completely unmarked.
So, despite their domestic dominance, Barcelona’s wait for the Champions League title the club craves so much goes on.