On this day in 2018 Liverpool began one of their most memorable and dramatic Champions League campaigns, which ultimately ended in a sixth European Cup at the end of the season. They started as they meant to go on on September 18 with the visit of Ligue 1 Champions Paris Saint-Germain.
It proved to be another magical night under the Anfield lights and Jurgen Klopp ’s side got off to the perfect start in the first-half. There was no stopping a towering header from Daniel Sturridge as he leapt into the air to meet a cross from Andy Robertson – the former Liverpool striker made an almost instant impact in his first Champions League start in six years.
James Milner increased their lead from the penalty spot a few minutes later after Gini Wijnaldum was clipped in the box. However, Thomas Tuchel’s side were able to reduce the deficit before the break through defender Thomas Meunier.
On 83 minutes, Kylian Mbappe found an equaliser and the Frenchman’s celebration in front of the Kop suggested they felt the job was done. A point at Anfield wouldn’t have been the worst result in the opening game of the group stage, with the Reds yet to visit the Parc des Princes.
The Brazilian had come on for Sturridge a little over 10 minutes before Mbappe’s strike – he only made the bench that night after sustaining a nasty eye injury in their previous game. Liverpool were on the verge of walking away ruing missed chances, knowing they should have long put the game to bed, but their no.9 rose to the occasion, as he so often does.
Deep into stoppage time, Firmino turned his compatriot Marquinos in the box and drove his effort into the far corner to send Anfield into absolute bedlam. The class finish was followed by a class celebration as he covered one eye, referencing the injury he suffered against Tottenham.
And the victory sent a reminder to Europe – and a certain international team-mate of Firmino’s – that Klopp’s side meant business.
Indeed, before the clash Neymar had dismissed Liverpool as not even top four material, just months before the Reds would go on to life their sixth European Cup in Madrid.
“Who will win it? Woah that’s difficult,” Neymar said when making his Premier League predictions. “It’s very hard, very difficult, but Manchester City will win it.
“Second will be United, third is Chelsea. Fourth is Tottenham.”
When pressed on the matter, Neymar confirmed “no Liverpool”.
Liverpool’s Champions League group that season was by no means an easy ride, they won just three of the games and all of them were at home. The visit of PSG was followed by a 1-0 defeat away at Napoli, a team the Reds continue to struggle against to this day.
A 4-0 victory at home to Red Star Belgrade meant very little as Klopp’s side were then beaten in two consecutive away games, 2-0 away to Red Star and 2-1 against PSG. Their Champions League hopes for the season rode on beating Napoli – but not just beating them, they needed a clean sheet or had to win by two clear goals.
They did just that with a 1-0 win over the Serie A side at Anfield, securing second place in the group behind PSG. This season, Liverpool may need similar fortunes as their European campaign began with a dismal 4-1 defeat and a night to forget in Naples earlier this month.
Napoli at home will once again be their final group stage clash, with matches against Ajax and Rangers in between. Another difficult set of opponents, Liverpool will need to be at their best for the remaining games if they’re to secure a place in the knock-out stages.