Liverpool suffered a 3-0 defeat to FC Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, first leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday evening.
Former Red Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the 27th minute, turning in Jordi Alba’s low ball from the left at the near post.
Lionel Messi added a second for the home team in the final quarter of the game by nudging into an open goal after Suarez’s initial attempt had came back off the crossbar.
The Argentina forward added another soon after when he found the top corner with a trademark free-kick from range.
Mohamed Salah almost reduced the arrears when he crashed a strike against the woodwork after substitute Roberto Firmino had saw a shot cleared off the line, leaving Liverpool with a three-goal deficit to try and overturn in the return at Anfield in six days’ time.
The teamsheet signalled four changes for Liverpool, including a first start for Joe Gomez since December, replacing Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Elsewhere, Joel Matip, James Milner and Fabinho returned in place of Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge. Firmino was named on the bench following injury, while Barcelona included two ex-Reds in their line-up in Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.
Despite the magnitude of the occasion and the spoils at stake, Liverpool made an enterprising start in Catalonia, with Salah having an early shot blocked inside the area by Clement Lenglet.
However, with the game not even five minutes old, Barcelona – who came into the fixture on the back of clinching a 26th La Liga title on Saturday – demonstrated a first glimpse of their considerable attacking threat when Coutinho touched a ball through for Ivan Rakitic inside the area. Matip was required to snuff out the danger with a timely tackle.
Next, Sadio Mane was sent scampering into space inside the box after Georginio Wijnaldum redirected Andy Robertson’s ball forward into his path. The No.10 went to ground under a challenge from Gerard Pique, and though he quickly regained his footing, he couldn’t find Salah with an attempted cross.
As play swung back towards the other end of the field, Messi was halted just outside the six-yard box by a Robertson intervention before Coutinho sent a curler into the grasp of Alisson Becker.
On 22 minutes, Liverpool were forced into a change with Naby Keita limping off due to a knock; Henderson was his replacement.
And shortly after, Barcelona opened the scoring. Alba’s low ball from the left picked out Suarez’s run between Matip and Virgil van Dijk, and the Uruguayan finished on the slide at the near post.
Jürgen Klopp’s side regrouped – and created their best opening so far when Henderson’s pass picked out Mane’s run in behind; however, he could only scoop the bouncing ball over the bar with Marc-Andre ter Stegen advancing from his goal line.
The Reds began the second period on the front-foot – and Stegen was required to beat away a curling attempt from Milner inside the opening 90 seconds.
Then, another promising advance from the visitors resulted in Salah seeing his skimming low strike from distance turned around the base of the post by Barcelona’s goalkeeper.
Liverpool were now firmly in the ascendancy – and on 59 minutes, they fashioned an opening when Van Dijk’s pin-point cross-field ball found Salah. His low delivery was left by Wijnaldum for Milner, but his scoop goalwards from 15 yards out was thwarted by Stegen.
But, with 15 minutes remaining, Barcelona extended their advantage when Messi pounced to slot into an unguarded goal after a scramble inside the box had resulted in Suarez striking against the bar.
Moments later, Barcelona’s No.10 was on target again, this time arrowing an unstoppable free-kick into the top corner from distance.
The Reds went agonisingly close to claiming an away goal when Firmino, earlier sent on for Georginio Wijnaldum, had one cleared off the line and Salah struck the follow-up against the post.
Henderson had a late header swept away from the line by Nelson Semedo with Stegen stranded, leaving Liverpool with a three-goal deficit to try and overcome at Anfield in six days’ time.