Anfield and famous European nights are so often uttered in the same sentence, but Liverpool will not mind that this was not one of them – they will not even mind that they lost.
The mission was simple enough on paper. A 2-0 lead to defend after beating Inter at the San Siro, knowing only one club had overturned a two-goal home defeat in a Champions League knockout tie – Manchester United doing so at PSG three years ago.
The pressure was therefore on Inter, manager Simone Inzaghi had stressed the need for an early goal, and they looked intent on mounting an unlikely comeback from the get-go on Wednesday night.
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Liverpool had chances of their own, Trent Alexander-Arnold going close with a free-kick and Mohamed Salah hitting the post, but it was Inter who struck first just as their hosts were looking complacent.
It was deserved. An Inter side who pushed Liverpool all the way in Italy before conceding two late goals in the first leg, had suddenly fought their way back into the tie, and in some style thanks to Lautaro Martinez.
But then, from a moment of magic to a moment of madness in a matter of seconds. The hope that stemmed from Martinez’s stunner was clipped the moment Alexis Sanchez went high on Fabinho and saw him pick up a second yellow card.
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The sending off can hardly be disputed, despite the mini-fracas it led to, but this was Inter’s frustrations all coming out knowing momentum had swung back in Liverpool’s favour.
And so, Liverpool have Sanchez to thank. Not only for the red card, but for the performance he had put in for the 62 minutes prior. He had looked lively, had justified his start, and was proving a handful for the hosts alongside Martinez and the imperious Arturo Vidal. They ensured it was not the rollover Jurgen Klopp would have liked, instead an exhausting affair which pushed his best players to the limit.
In all, though, that must be viewed in a positive light. This was a last-16 second leg, and that means Liverpool already have an experience more valuable than the seven wins that preceded this match in Europe.
It could serve them well in the months to come, and will be a big moment to look back on if it is to be another Champions League campaign to remember.
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