Luis Suárez keeps on running to give Barcelona what they needed

Sports May 02, 2019 00:32

There was no doubt the Uruguayan would celebrate after scoring against his old club – that’s the way he is

Suddenly, Luis Suárez was up and running. All around him everyone else was up and shouting. If the Camp Nou had a roof, it would have come off, the volume rising. He had slipped between Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk, everything happening so fast that they barely saw it coming, let alone had time to react, and slid in to turn the ball past Allisson. Now, just as fast, he was on his feet, sprinting to the south-west corner, screaming, sliding to his knees, kissing his fingers and raising his arms wide.

Half of his teammates ran towards him, half headed to Jordi Alba, author of an astonishing pass. Author of a sublime nutmeg moments before and perhaps the half’s most important challenge, on Mo Salah. In his corner, Suárez roared.

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Whenever a player faces his former team there is a recurring question: will he celebrate if he scores? With the Uruguayan there was no question. As he headed back to the centre-circle, he looked up, way, way up to the Liverpoolfans, 5,000 of them in one of those appalling Perspex prisons, and raised a hand to apologise, but there was no way he would not celebrate. Sorry, not sorry.

He had already said that, as if he needed to. That is the way Suárez is. When he confronted James Milner, when he went head-to-head with Andy Robertson, that was the way Suárez is. By half-time, of a fantastically frantic game, he had appeared at boiling point, in everyone’s faces. But he had his goal and so did Barcelona.

For much of the game, they clung to it, sometimes even desperately in a game that was fast, intense, the kilometres covered rising, Arturo Vidal’s ripped shirt and slide tackles a symbol of the night. “We played their game and we’re not as used to that, at times we were asphyxiated,” Lionel Messi said.

Ah, yes, Messi. Barcelona suffered, Suárez’s goal their everything. But then came Messi. He had been there throughout, seemingly forever running at Liverpool, yet another performance baffling in its brilliance. But it was not until the 75th minute that his first goal came when Suárez’s kneed volley came back to him off the bar.

A second soon arrived and it bent minds as much as the ball. It was 3-0 and it might even have been four but for Ousmane Dembélé’s dreadful scuff with the last kick, Messi lying on the grass wondering what might have been.

It was already brilliant for Barcelona and perhaps more than it should have been. It had seemed like it might only be 1-0. Or, worse, not a win at all – Salah’s shot against the post was just one of many. Suárez had scored where they failed and the significance was lost on no one, even if it did end up being eclipsed by Messi. When he departed, spent, 98,000 people applauded, chanting “Uruguayo! Uruguayo!”

At Old Trafford, in the previous round, Suárez had scored but it had been taken from him, declared an own goal. “As far as I’m concerned it’s mine,” he said. “An ex-Liverpool player scoring a goal at Old Trafford and then we knock them out. Liverpool fans will be happy with that but not so happy now because they are playing against us.”

And, ultimately, so it proved. Few teams have made Barcelona suffer like Liverpool did, but they were defeated.

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Suárez had needed the goal that began it all before Messi ended it all. At the start of the season, Messi declared that Barcelona wanted “that lovely and desired cup”. Suárez joked that the reaction of the rest of the players was to shoot back: you want it, you do it then. Here he kind of did – yet again. But they knew they were needed, too. While Messi was everywhere, the runs seemingly endless, the importance of Marc-André ter Stegen was increasingly revealed, Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet too. And wWhile Messi had not taken part in the opening goal, Arturo Vidal, Philippe Coutinho and Alba had. At the end of it, there was Suárez.

If there had been any doubts at all about the celebration, the situation swept those away. It was Suárez’s 36th shot of the competition and, officially, it was his first goal. Last year, he scored once, the year before that three. Barcelona’s failure in this competition was also about the baffling absence of goals from the man who, in league games, had scored more than anyone in Europe except Messi over the past five years.

Ernesto Valverde valued his contribution anyway, complaining that even when he provided two assists with two dummies at Wembley “people will talk about the fact that he didn’t score.” Here, he did. “That’ll give him a break,” Valverde said. There were nerves, but there was the goal, the game on track. “It was fundamental, especially because it wasn’t yet clear whose game it was. It felt like whoever scored first would have a big advantage,” Valverde said.Now they had something to hold on to, something to defend. And, ultimately, something to add to.Liverpool didn’t take their chances, Suárez had. And when another second came he hit the bar and Messi to walk it in. Seven minutes later, Messi had his second.

Suárez was still out there, exhausted. But he is not someone you take off, Valverde said, his importance shown in the fact that before , he had played 90 minutes four times in 11 days, Valverde said he would have liked to take him off sooner against Levante last Saturday when they took the title. “But given the choice between winning the league and resting Luis, I chose the league,” he said. Now, the Champions League is close.

“Luis is so insistent: you have to look for success and he’s an expert in looking,” his manager added. At last against Liverpool he found what he was looking for, what Barcelona were looking for.


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