Ian Dennis: That European night at Anfield when Messi, Suarez and Coutinho came to town

Liverpool v Barcelona at Anfield

May 7 2019 – Anfield.  A Champions League semi-final second-leg tie between Liverpool and Barcelona. The Reds were 3-0 down on aggregate having been humbled in the Nou Camp just six days earlier.

A place in the final for the Spanish side was all but sealed, Lionel Messi and co had killed the tie on their home soil in a competition they’d already won five times, any comeback was implausible.

But then…

“It comes in, a quick corner, it’s Origi. Liverpool four Barcelona nil and Liverpool may well have produced the greatest European comeback ever!”

Ian Dennis commentary from that night at Anfield

Ian Dennis’ words are now synonymous with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quickly taken corner and Liverpool’s remarkable victory over Barcelona, something which the commentator never ruled out.

Dennis joined UCLAN journalism students in a live Q&A session and reminisced of great European nights at Anfield with joy in his voice.

“I knew what Anfield could do on a European night. I’d been there for the game against Borussia Dortmund in the 2016 Europa League quarter-finals.

“That was on the eve of the Hillsborough anniversary so that comeback was made even more special.

“It’s one of the few grounds capable of producing something like that because of the crowd factor.”

The Barcelona semi-final saw Dennis, 48, work alongside co-commentator and footballing icon Alan Shearer, who he revealed still contacts him about it to this day.

Dennis said: “When someone posts something on social media about the game and the love-in starts again, Shearer sees it and texts me saying ‘it’s started all over again!’

“I saw someone put our commentary over the footage of the goals on YouTube last year with an obscene amount of hits. I think it was the most watched sports video on YouTube in 2019. I sent that to Alan and he replied ‘That’s just insane!’

“Honestly, I’ve never had such a good reaction on social media to a commentary.”

Even without an injured Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino up front, Dennis was confident that the Reds would have the attacking force to score the goals needed, it was keeping the ball out of the back of the net which was his only concern.

Keeping a clean sheet when Barcelona are in town is never easy; just ask Bayern Munich, Ajax, PSG and all of the other teams that they have left trailing in their wake over the years.

If the Spaniards had scored against Liverpool, it would have meant that Liverpool needed a five-goal margin of victory to win the tie overall due to the away goals rule, applicable in European competitions.

BBC’s Ian Dennis interviewing Harry Kane

Dennis told students of just how thankful he was that the Reds managed to keep Barcelona at bay in the second leg.

“I said to Alan Shearer beforehand that if they scored, we still had to produce a 90-minute commentary and that I might have had to go a bit left-field to keep the listeners engaged.

“You’re not going to be blessed with great games all the time and therefore you’ve got to come up with something different. It got that bad at a Newcastle game once, I had to talk about Battenberg cake to pass the time while the game was going on!”