Divock Origi: almost discarded, the Belgian is now a symbol of Liverpool's penchant for the improbable
Origi, only playing in place of injured Firmino, upstaged lauded teammates as well as Barcelona's Lionel Messi to become Liverpool's unlikely hero for the second time in three days
It felt rather fitting that, on a bewildering night that stretched the boundaries of the believable, it was neither Lionel Messi nor Luis Suarez who settled the Uefa Champions League semi-final between Liverpool and Barcelona.
Nor was it Sadio Mane. Nor Mohamed Salah, or Roberto Firmino.
Nor, for that matter, was it Philippe Coutinho, back at the club who little more than 12 months before pushed Barcelona to part with £142 million (Dh680m) to ferry him to Camp Nou.
No, on a bewildering night at Anfield, the sort of night even Jurgen Klopp conceded bordered on the impossible, Divock Origi struck the decisive blow.
• Liverpool v Barcelona player ratings: Divock Origi puts Lionel Messi in the shade
To all intents and purposes, he should not really have been starting. Salah was out injured. Firmino too. With options limited, Origi was preferred over Daniel Sturridge, presumably because Daniel Sturridge doesn’t really feel like Daniel Sturridge any more.
Conceivably, Origi should not really have been at Liverpool. The Belgian spent last season in the Bundesliga, on loan at Wolfsburg. The season before, he was limited predominantly to starts in the cup competitions, scoring away at Burton Albion and Derby County, at home to Leeds United. He started 14 games in the Premier League.
Last summer, Liverpool tried to offload him. A return to Germany was mooted, this time in a permanent deal. Or perhaps back to France, to the same division from which Liverpool lifted him, in 2014, from Lille for £10m. Then aged 19, he joined on a lengthy, five-year contract.
Since then, Origi spent two full campaigns on loan. He has played 62 matches for Liverpool in the Premier League, 24 times from the start.
Yet on Tuesday night, Divock Origi helped make the seemingly impossible possible. He scored on seven minutes, as Liverpool snatched the early goal they craved, seizing back some semblance that they could actually clamber above the 3-0 defeat in last week’s first leg, against arguably the greatest player of all time and undeniably one of the game’s great clubs. That they could become only the fourth team to turn around a three-goal deficit in a Champions League knockout tie. Previous to that, Origi had never before scored in the competition.
Suddenly imbued with belief, Liverpool levelled the tie early in the second half, once more not through Mane, Salah or Firmino. But through Georginio Wijnaldum. Even then, he had not found the net before in the Champions League.
But, with 11 minutes remaining, Origi settled it, sending Liverpool into a ninth European Cup final. He latched on to the latest of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s assists – the most remarkable of his 15 this season – and directed the ball high into the Barcelona goal.
Amid the bedlam, Liverpool’s unlikely lad had displayed his penchant for the improbable. Against Everton in December, when the derby had creaked long past 90 minutes and with Jordan Pickford providing a mighty helping hand, Origi grabbed the winner.
On Saturday, he entered the must-win encounter against Newcastle United only after Salah had been stretchered off, but departed as the guy who headed home the winning goal. Again late, again keeping alive Liverpool’s quest for a first top-flight title in 29 years.
Then on Tuesday, Origi bookended a compelling and confounding semi-final second leg, lifting his European tally for Liverpool to four goals. He had a double against Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League quarter-finals; now, a brace in the most memorable of clashes with Barcelona.
In the space of three dizzying days, Divock Origi has sustained Liverpool’s twin assault on their two most-coveted prizes. Which, when the curtain came down on a bewildering night along the banks of the Mersey, after Anfield grew hoarse as the players and their people chorused their famous old tune, felt rather fitting.
Updated: May 8, 2019 03:18 PM