Liverpool FC magician Philippe Coutinho ended any hopes Manchester United had of a dramatic Europa League comeback against their rivals by conjuring up a superb away goal which effectively put the tie out of reach.
The LFC Number 10 equalised on the stroke of half-time to make it 3-1 on aggregate in favour of the side from Merseyside, but, as well as the timing, it was the manner in which the solo goal was scored that helped United succumb.
Goalkeeper David De Gea had been singlehandedly responsible for United remaining in the tie with a number of truly outstanding saves across both legs, denying Coutinho in particular on several occasions – but the Brazilian playmaker would not be denied.
Taking the ball on the left-wing, Coutinho bamboozled fullback Varela before cleverly bringing De Gea to his knees and scooping the ball into the net, as he – and possibly everybody else watching in real-time – anticipated a pull back across goal.
It was a piece of individual brilliance from the Number 10, who revealed his thought-process for the goal after the match to UEFA.com:
I had the chance to be face to face with De Gea and I’ve tried this kind of thing before in training, so I thought ‘why not?’.
Luckily, it came off. You could say that this was one of my best goals in a Liverpool shirt, but once again, all that counts is the team, and this evening the team performed at a very high level, creating several chances and showing how strong we are.
Manager Jürgen Klopp echoed these sentiments and hailed his playmaker’s ‘genius moment’ by stating:
We had our chances, it was Liverpool v De Gea. He was unbelievable again. We scored an unbelievable situation. Fantastic. The game changed. He [Coutinho] is a young lad still but he thinks about it. It was a perfect game and Philippe’s goal a genius moment.