Liverpool only had two losses in their whole Europa League campaign this season. Their first, a 1-0 loss to Villarreal in the first leg of the semi-finals. Their second loss came in the closing game of the campaign, the Europa League final when Liverpool suffered a crushing 3-1 defeat to Sevilla.
After Liverpool topped Group B with 10 points they faced FC Augsburg in the round of 32. The first leg ended in a dull 0-0 away in Germany but for the return leg at Anfield, the crowd really got behind the team knowing that they must get a good result. A James Milner penalty sent the Reds through to the last 16.
A massive fixture was drawn out of the hat as Liverpool were chosen to face Manchester United. This was huge as it was the first time Liverpool and Man United had faced each other in European football and it offered an opportunity to reignite a rivalry which had lost its pull in recent years.
The first leg took place at Anfield and yet again the support from the fans was unbelievable and the atmosphere at Anfield was one of the best this season. The Reds did their job and thanks to Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino Liverpool had a comfortable 2-0 lead heading to Old Trafford. The return leg ended in a closely contested 1-1 draw which meant Liverpool proceeded to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 aggregate scoreline.
In the quarter-finals Liverpool were drawn with Jürgen Klopp’s former team Borussia Dortmund in a mouth-watering tie. Liverpool had an extremely tough task on their hands as Dortmund were in tremendous form losing no goals in any competitions in 2016 before meeting Liverpool.
Klopp and co. travelled to Signal Iduna Park for the first leg. The match was very cagey with both sitting deep and defending. Divock Origi put the Reds in front just 36 minutes in. However Mats Hummels pulled one back for Dortmund 48 minutes in. The game ended 1-1 meaning Liverpool brought an away goal advantage back home.
In the second leg Dortmund started very strong scoring in the fifth minute thanks to a Henrikh Mkhitaryan tap-in. They doubled their lead just four minutes later after Aubameyang fired home. It looked as though Liverpool were on their way out of Europe at half-time.
However, a 48th minute Origi goal gave Liverpool hope, only for Marco Reus to score Dortmund’s third of the night. Liverpool now needed three goals to go through. In the 66th minute there was another glimmer of hope when Philippe Coutinho played a one-two with Milner at the edge of the box, then fired it in the far corner.
In the 77th minute Mamadou Sakho then scored from a corner, putting Liverpool one goal away from a miracle victory. Then, in the 91st minute, Dejan Lovren connected with a James Milner cross and headed into the back of the net. Liverpool went on to the semi-finals in Liverpool-esque fashion, sending Anfield into a frenzy in the process.
Liverpool met with Villarreal in the semi-final. The first leg away at Villarreal was very cagey with both teams playing very defensive, but a mistake at the back led to a late goal for the hosts.
Yet again however, on another fantastic European night at Anfield, Liverpool managed to put three past Villarreal to give them the spot in the final that the players and the fans craved so badly. A trip to Basel to round off the season for a second final in seven months.
Have these victories now been wasted?
Unfortunately, the Reds weren't able to make it count and they fell at the final hurdle in disappointing fashion to Sevilla. However, in no way have these victories been wasted just because Liverpool were unable to bring home the glory.
Obviously from a technical point of view, the victories in the round of 16, quarter-final and semi-final are now worthless, but the way in which Liverpool clawed their way back into that Dortmund second leg was amazing. The performance against the German giants proved to the fans that Liverpool do have a team capable of competing with worthy European challengers. These victories also showed the fans that the squad certainly do have a fantastic team spirit. Each player played not only for each other but for the fans, on the field those three nights on such high-stakes occasions.
The final on the other hand was a different story. The players were unable to perform to their maximum which could of been down to several reasons, such as match nerves or pressure. That final excluded, Liverpool were probably the best performing team in the Europa League this season and Klopp and his men can look back at that night against Dortmund or that night against Villarreal and take multiple positives from it and learn from them victories.
So although Liverpool were unable to bring back silverware from Basel they can certainly look back at their European campaign this season and be proud at how they performed. Their run certainly bodes well for the future.