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Reds take first steps on road to Madrid with thrilling victory over PSG

By James Pearce
23:18, 18 SEP 2018

Liverpool are on the march once again. The road to Madrid promises to be some ride.

That cherished collection of unforgettable European nights at Anfield has a new addition after a thrilling last-gasp victory over Paris Saint-Germain.
Considering the calibre of the opposition, this was as good as anything Jurgen Klopp's side served up en route to the Champions League final in Kiev in May.
The Reds left it late to secure maximum points as substitute Roberto Firmino rammed home the winner in stoppage time to spark scenes of manic joy.
But it would have been a travesty if Liverpool had taken anything less from a breathtaking heavyweight contest with the French champions.

Some wondered how Klopp's men would handle the increased expectation levels having been the surprise package among Europe's elite last season. The answer here was emphatic.

They played with a swagger and a burning desire which a star-studded side – bankrolled by the petrodollars of Qatar – simply couldn't live with.

PSG's frontline of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani cost £400million but what Klopp has created at Liverpool is priceless.
This is a proper team, functioning in all departments, with a special unity and spirit driving it on.

Tuchel feels power of Anfield again

Once again Thomas Tuchel, who suffered similar heartbreak with Borussia Dortmund back in 2016, felt the full power of Anfield.
There were so many commanding performances in the Reds' Group C opener. James Milner , not content with beating Neymar's assists record in the competition last term, proceeded to out-shine the world's most expensive player on the big stage. The Brazilian will be seeing Milner in his nightmares.

Klopp got his selection spot on. Liverpool's midfield bossed proceedings with captain Jordan Henderson excelling on his return to the side and Gini Wijnalduim equally impressive.
Defensively, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold did a magnificent job in stifling PSG's array of firepower.
 
At the other end, fears that the Reds would be wounded by the fact that Firmino was only fit enough for bench duty were eased by a resurgent Daniel Sturridge grasping his chance to shine.

The Reds striker had looked destined to leave Anfield earlier this summer after a miserable loan stint at West Brom ended in relegation.
But to his credit, he worked his socks off to force his way back into Klopp's plans. He looks lean, strong and hungry. His touch and his movement was slick, and he marked his first Champions League start for the club with the opener in front of the Kop.

When Milner doubled their account from the penalty spot, Liverpool were in dreamland but PSG rallied.

Thomas Meunier pulled one back and when Mbappe equalised late on it looked like being a tale of what might have been.
But that never-say-die spirit came to the fore as Firmino, who had spent Saturday evening in a London eye hospital, had the final word.

Anfield a cauldron as Europe once again brings out the best in Liverpool

'Allez Les Rouges' read the giant banner on the Kop as PSG walked into a cauldron before kick-off.

Last season's run to Kiev reignited the Reds' love affair with the European Cup. It brought the best out of players and supporters alike, and this was some occasion to get a new adventure underway.

The atmosphere was more akin to a high-stakes knockout tie than a group stage opener. Klopp's men fed off that energy from the stands during a frenetic opening spell. PSG couldn't handle the Reds' tempo and intensity.

Van Dijk was thwarted by an acrobatic save from Alphonse Areola before Milner, Mane and Gomez went close.
 
Liverpool won battles all over the field. Henderson and Milner provided the combative edge required as they thundered into tackles and kept the Reds on the front foot. Anfield roared its approval when Milner left Neymar in a heap close to halfway.

Having Neymar for company didn't stop the fearless Alexander-Arnold from rampaging forward at every opportunity. He whipped in some beauties as the pressure was maintained.
 
There was a scare when Alisson Becker could only parry Neymar's strike but Van Dijk stopped Cavani from converting the rebound.
The breakthrough the Reds deserved finally arrived on the half-hour mark. Robertson's delivery was pin-point and Sturridge climbed highest six yards out to power a header past Areola.

The striker's beaming smile showed just what it meant to him. It was a big ask to step into Firmino's shoes in a game of this magnitude, especially considering that Sturridge had only played a combined total of 21 minutes so far this term. But he rose to the challenge brilliantly.

PSG were rattled and their scrambled minds resulted in Juan Bernat senselessly tripping Wijnaldum in the box. It was a nailed on spot-kick and Milner held his nerve to thump it into the bottom corner.

Tuchel's men were on the ropes. Liverpool were in complete control but five minutes before the break PSG grabbed a lifeline.

The Reds failed to deal with a cross from the left and it struck Robertson before falling to Meunier, who dispatched it clinically past Alisson.

Liverpool dominate second half

Seeing their advantage halved didn't dent Liverpool's belief. In the second half they quickly regained a grip on proceedings and just before the hour mark they were controversially denied a third.

Wijnaldum's shot was turned into the path of Sturridge, who slid in on Areola. He played the ball before his momentum took him into the keeper and Salah converted from close range.

The assistant raced up to halfway having seen nothing wrong but Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir took pity on Areola and chalked it off.

That perceived sense of injustice served to fire up Anfield still further and Sturridge should have done better when picked out by Alexander-Arnold.
The Kop paid homage to the outstanding Robertson after his lung-bursting dash to stop Meunier from breaking clear. World Cup winner Mbappe also got no change out of the Scotland captain.

Klopp brought on Firmino for the tiring Sturridge and Liverpool really should have finished PSG off. Salah, who was once again worryingly below par, fired wide from Van Dijk's knock-down before Mane missed from a tight angle.

When the equaliser arrived seven minutes from time, the Reds were architects of their own downfall. Salah's wayward pass left them exposed with Neymar bursting forward before Mbappe slotted past Alisson.

Rather than mope, Liverpool struck back. Gomez and Van Dijk combined to find Firmino, who darted past Marquinhos and nailed it into the bottom corner.
Klopp's great entertainers are lighting up Europe once again.
 
MATCH FACTS

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane (Fabinho 90+3), Salah (Shaqiri 85), Sturridge (Firmino 72).
Not used: Mignolet, Keita, Moreno, Matip

PSG: Areola, Meunier, Kimpembe, Silva, Bernat, Rabiot, Marquinhos, Di Maria (Choupo-Moting 80), Mbappe, Cavani (Draxler 80), Neymar.
Not used: Cibois, Kehrer, Diarra, Nkunku, Nsoki.

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)
Attendance: 52,478
Goals: Sturridge 30, Milner 36, Meunier 40, Mbappe 83, Firmino 90+1.
Bookings: Van Dijk, Meunier.
Man of the match: James Milner. Put in a stunning shift.

Copyright - The Liverpool Echo

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