What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Anfield and semi-finals? Drama would be right up there. A fizzing atmosphere and a frenzied Liverpool performance would be high on your list, too.
There had been five such occasions during Jurgen Klopp’s reign, the most notable being the Champions League blitzings of Roma (5-2 in 2018) and Barcelona (4-0 in 2019) and the Europa League skewering of Villarreal (3-0 in 2016).
Perhaps not so easily recalled, though, are the League Cup dust-ups with Stoke (2016) and Southampton (2017). The reason? Both of them finished in 1-0 defeats. They escaped against Stoke, thanks to a penalty shootout, but there was no such good fortune the following year.
Liverpool failed to provide their usual semi-final magic at Anfield against Arsenal on Thrusday
And it was that fixture — more than any other — that came to mind against Arsenal.
What should have been Anfield’s biggest night of the campaign turned into one of the most perplexing performances they have produced in this stadium for quite some time.
One passage of play, early in the second half, provided clear evidence. First came a pass from Virgil van Dijk that was so off target, it rolled out of play and prompted him to raise a hand in apology. Next came an ‘ambitious’ shot from Joel Matip that cleared the bar by such a distance that any rugby kicker would have been certain of getting two points for a conversion.
Then, to complete the comedy of errors, Andrew Robertson under-hit a ball to Trent Alexander-Arnold that was so lacking in pace you would have had him down as the weekend golfer who can’t read the speed of a putt. All of this came against 10 men, remember.
The Reds were held to a 0-0 draw by the north Londoners, who played with 10 men for spells
Jurgen Klopp’s side lacked the zip and dynamism typically associated with the German
No wonder Klopp appeared bewildered. Occasionally he bellowed to rouse his team but everywhere he looked there were shortcomings and uncertainty.
The number of corners taken by Alexander-Arnold and Robertson that failed to beat the first man was staggering.
There was no creativity in midfield, no zip or dynamism in attack. Klopp had said before the game he was ‘desperate’ to win this fixture but his team’s actions did not back up his words.
It would be easy to pin this on the AFCON absences of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah but there was sufficient quality at Klopp’s disposal. Liverpool may yet end up at Wembley but, to face Chelsea, they will have to do it the hard way.