El Kloppiko

Jurgen Klopp

Thursday’s Europa League quarterfinals featured one of the most awaited matches in European competition. Liverpool’s trip to Borussia Dortmund carried added meaning as their manager, Jürgen Klopp, was something of an icon at the German club. Before joining Liverpool in October, Klopp was at the helm for BvB for seven years. While in charge, Klopp led Dortmund to arguably its most successful period ever with two Bundesliga titles, a German Cup, two German Super Cups and even a Champions League Final appearance. A disappointing run last season saw Klopp leave Dortmund in May, but he still got a hero’s welcome on his return to the Signal Iduna Park.

Dortmund had the first real chance of the match through Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the 17th minute. The Armenian winger appeared to have an open net to shoot at after being found by Marcel Schmelzer in the middle of the box, but Mamadou Sakho delivered a vital block to keep the scores level. Was this going to be a busy day for Liverpool’s defense?

Three minutes after Mkhitaryan’s effort, Liverpool had a chance of their own to pull ahead. James Milner’s free kick picked out the head of Dejan Lovren unmarked in the penalty area. The former Southampton defender had the entire goal to aim at only to put it straight at Roman Weidenfeller. Weidenfeller parried the initial effort before getting leveled by Lovren and Adam Lallana on the follow-up to earn a free kick.

Dortmund’s biggest problem through the opening stages of the match was their inability to put their shots on target. Simon Mignolet wasn’t forced into a save 36th minute, and even then it was a rather tame effort from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It looked like Liverpool’s backline was doing just enough to contain Dortmund’s lethal attack as Aubameyang and Marco Reus were both finding it difficult to influence the match.

Moments after Mignolet’s first save of the match, Liverpool found themselves in front. James Milner did well to flick on Alberto Moreno’s through ball onto the feet of Divock Origi, who was controversially starting over Daniel Sturridge. The Belgian’s ensuing shot took a slight deflection off of Lukasz Piszczek before finding its way into the side netting.

Origi’s had another chance to score in the final seconds of the half, but Weidenfeller made an impressive one-on-one save to keep the deficit at just one goal. The 20-year-old’s initial strike was good enough to send Liverpool into the intermission with a slim lead and a vital away goal. Could they hold on for another 45 minutes?

To answer that question quickly: no. Just three minutes into the second half, Dortmund leveled the score. Their captain, Mats Hummels, got his head to the end of Mkhitaryan’s cross and left Mignolet helpless between the pipes. It was a dream start for the hosts and the fans must’ve surely been thinking it was time for their team to take control of the match.

Liverpool were actually the side that responded best to Hummels’ goal as they peppered Dortmund’s net with chances in the 51st minute. Philippe Coutinho forced Weidenfeller into a brilliant diving save to start the sequence, and then the German keeper was again called into action moments later by a long drive from Nathaniel Clyne. To cap it off, Coutinho sent in another powerful close-range effort, but once again Weidenfeller made the save.

Reus and Gonzalo Castro both tested Mignolet in the closing stages of the match, but neither of their shots were good enough to beat the Belgian keeper. When the final whistle blew, it felt as if a 1-1 draw was a fair result for both teams. Following the whistle, Klopp went around to hug all of his former players and staff and American fans will be happy to know that Christian Pulisic, who featured for the final 13 minutes of the match, got a big hug from the German manager. While next week’s return leg at Anfield probably won’t have the same emotional attachment that this match did, it still has everything to play for as both teams fight for a place in the semifinals.


Tags: , , , ,