DONAL O’Sullivan has been to Anfield more times that he can remember – but he never experienced an atmosphere as electric as this one.
It was the result that reverberated around the world: Liverpool 4, Barcelona 0. One of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history as the mighty Reds overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit to win this epic semi-final 4-3 on aggregate, and qualify for a second successive European cup final.
Dunmanway man O’Sullivan was there. Right in the middle of it. So was his usual partner in crime, another Dunmanway Liverpool fanatic Chris Whitehead. An incredible night at Anfield. The stadium was bouncing.
‘It was up there with the best I’ve been at, probably the best,’ O’Sullivan smiles.
‘The only one that runs it close is the 13/14 title run-in and the game against Manchester City where Coutinho scored – but that went belly-up in the Chelsea game after that.
‘It was unbelievable against Barcelona. The Manchester City win in the league the night before (against Leicester City) was deflating so we felt the league was 95 per cent gone and then we needed at least three goals against Barcelona.
‘To be honest, I fancied us to get two, maybe three, but I didn’t think we’d keep Barcelona scoreless.’
Liverpool did the unthinkable. They kept the Spanish champions and Lionel Messi scoreless and at the other end, even without the injured Firmino and Salah, they scored four times. No wonder Anfield rocked that night like never before.
But O’Sullivan, like many others, missed the tie’s decisive goal, when Divock Origi steered home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick corner. It caught everyone – the Barcelona defence included – off guard.
‘I missed it! And I was at that corner of the ground where the corner was taken,’ O’Sullivan says.
‘Alexander-Arnold put the ball down, I turned to the fella next to me and said “we’re going to get another one here, we just need to keep it tight”. As we were looking at each other the corner was taken and the ball was in the back of the net. It was a case of what the Christ has happened there?
‘I think half the stadium nearly missed it.’
O’Sullivan has followed Liverpool to the Bernabeu in Madrid, to Dortmund, to last season’s Champions League final in Kiev (Liverpool lost 3-1 to Real Madrid), but nothing comes close to that electricity in the air at Anfield after beating Barcelona. He was back at Anfield again for the final Premier League match of the season as Jurgen Klopp’s men beat Wolves 2-0 but it wasn’t enough to end the long title drought as Manchester City won away to Brighton.
For 83 seconds after Brighton scored and as Liverpool led, the impossible seemed possible – but Manchester City moved up through the gears and won 4-1 to be crowned champions.
So, Liverpool’s wait for the league title goes on but the wait for a sixth European Cup could end on June 1st against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. A family engagement means that O’Sullivan won’t be there, but he’s backing his Reds to finish the job and end a superb season on a high note.
‘I would have preferred Ajax (Amsterdam) in the final because of Mauricio Pochettino and because they know Liverpool so well, but that works both ways. Liverpool know them just as well. It will be tough but …’