Liverpool will have to produce one of their best displays of the season at Anfield after Barcelona’s Lionel Messi hit them with a second half sucker-punch in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
After a frustrating opening half when they fell behind to Luis Suarez’s strike, Jurgen Klopp’s men gained the upper hand and looked more likely to score the next, with both Mohamed Salah and James Milner testing the agility of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
However, Barcelona showed they can be at their most deadly with their backs to the wall.
The home side doubled their lead when Messi followed up after Suarez’s strike came off the bar and then the Argentine maestro raised the decibel levels inside a packed Nou Camp with a sublime 25-yard free-kick that found the top-right corner.
The Reds came agonisingly close to a crucial away goal when Roberto Firmino’s strike was cleared off the line, before Salah struck the post with his follow-up.
Reds out of luck at Nou Camp
What more could Klopp ask of his men in the second leg on Tuesday (22:00 EAT kick-off) after a display where they constantly probed and pressured the competition favourites?
Maybe some luck could have gone their way. Sadio Mane, with 15 goals in his past 18 games, missed from eight yards out after he was found by Jordan Henderson’s ball from the right in the first half.
And in their period of domination after the interval, Ter Stegen was at full stretch to push away Milner’s shot before the German dived low to his right to make a one-handed stop from Salah’s drive.
Liverpool refused to let their heads drop after Messi’s mini-show which took him to 600 goals for the Catalan club. However, they must have thought the gods are not shining on them this year after both Firmino and Salah missed clear-cut chances you would have put money on them to score.
The Reds have been known to produce miracles with a 3-0 deficit. They will need to produce another next week.