Liverpool produced one of the greatest comebacks in UEFA Champions League history to defeat FC Barcelona 4-0 on Tuesday, overturning a three-goal first leg deficit.
The win helped them to advance to their second successive final match with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
Two goals each from stand-in forward Divock Origi and halftime substitute Georginio Wijnaldum left Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona utterly shell-shocked by a Liverpool performance full of passion, belief and determination.
Juergen Klopp’s side will play the winner of Wednesday’s other semi-final pairing between Ajax Amsterdam and Tottenham Hotspur, with the Dutch side leading 1-0 from the first leg in London.
“Unbelievable. I don’t think many people gave us a chance,” said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.
“Before the game we knew that it would be difficult but it was still possible of course. It’s amazing. We knew that at Anfield we could do something special.”
Liverpool become only the third team in the history of the European Cup or Champions League to come from three goals down after the first leg of a semi-final and progress.
Only Panathinaikos in 1970/1971 and FC Barcelona themselves in 1985/1986 have ever done it.
For Barca, who went out on away goals to AS Roma in the quarter-finals last year after winning the first-leg 4-1, it was a bitter night.
It was a night that will raise many questions for coach Ernesto Valverde.
Messi, whose two goals in the first leg had given his team a seemingly comfortable advantage, was unable to make his influence on the game count.
They needed an away goal that would have been decisive.
Liverpool, without two thirds of their strike force with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino injured, took a seventh minute lead.
That was when a poor headed clearance from Jordi Alba fell at the feet of Jordan Henderson, who burst goalwards.
His low shot was parried out by Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen but it went straight to Origi who slotted home.
Barca had openings in the first half, but when Messi twice got space around the box he fired wide of the target.
Also, when Jordi Alba burst goalwards just before halftime, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker was out quickly to nullify the danger.
Yet the game took a remarkable turn following the introduction of Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum for the injured left-back Andy Robertson at the break.
The Dutchman drove home a low cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold, which Barca goalkeeper Ter Stegen should have saved, to make it 2-0 in the 54th minute.
Two minutes later Wijnaldum rose to meet a Xherdan Shaqiri cross with a powerful header to make it 3-3 on aggregate.
Liverpool then grabbed an extraordinary fourth goal with a quickly-taken corner kick from Alexander-Arnold.
He caught the Barca defence asleep with a low ball that was turned in at the near post by Origi.
That sent Anfield wild.
But then, Klopp’s side suddenly found themselves needing to switch mindset and defend a lead as Barca slipped, belatedly, into their trademark possession game.
Yet, with Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip outstanding in the centre of defence and Brazilian Fabinho making some crucial interventions in midfield, Liverpool held on.
Klopp’s side, who lost to Real Madrid in last year’s final match in Kiev, remain in with a chance of a double triumph.
They head into Sunday’s final round of English Premier League (EPL) games trailing leaders Manchester City by just a point.
It seems most Nigerian exporters are not happy with Nigeria’s Debt Management Office. The reason- How the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) is managed. Most Nigerians can recall that almost all her governments have paid lip service to the need for economic diversification and growth of non-oil export.
However, the present government in Nigeria under President Mohammed Buhari, after the last economic recession, seemed to have realized that it will be very hard for the Nigerian economy to grow without doing something dramatic about growing non-oil exports.
So the President decided to revive The Export Expansion Grant (EEG). Every stakeholder has come to agree that its implementation will boost non-oil exports and Nigeria’s economy. The Export Expansion grant was created specifically to help cushion those disadvantages experienced by Nigerian exporters from a cost perspective due to anomalies in the areas of infrastructure, Power, and monetary/ fiscal distortions.
Regrettably, the implementation of policies on this grant by various government agencies especially the Debt Management office (DMO) has left most exporters totally ruffled.
Steps to access the grant are not only slow; policies around it are hazy and nebulous. All stakeholders agree that the Nigerian presidency must intervene to set things right. The DMO that operates directly with the exporters in this matter has said that it will make disbursement on the principle of what is designated as Reverse Auction Process (RAP), which implies that only exporters who will accept discounted rates will become beneficiaries. Even at that, the DMO is not giving the money to all eligible exporters.
Stakeholders feel the President must hear this. This is obviously not acceptable to exporters and they are not lying low. Virtually all key local business bodies are also lining up behind them.
Under a banner called Organized Private Sector Exporters Association (OPSEA) they have sent a strong Save-Our-Souls letter to President Buhari that exporters are becoming very unsettled in their businesses more than ever and unable to carry out their vital roles.
They are lamenting that the accumulated EEG not paid over the years is biting hard on the export activities of its members. The development, has led to the accumulation of billions of Naira owed exporters between 2007 and 2016.
Consequently, the association is making a three point request on the issue, which are as follows: The Reverse Auction Process (RAP) for issuance of Promissory Notes (PNs) should be reconsidered by the government; the second is that the government (including the Debt Management Office, DMO) should restrict themselves to issuing the PNs as the shortest term feasible for payment, while equal treatment should be meted to all beneficiaries of all categories of PN.
Thirdly, the exporters should be issued PNs with shortest tenure (spread evenly over a maximum period of three years) bearing in mind that payment has been delayed for a period of three to 12 years for member’s claims.
OPSEA recounted that before now, previous administrations had commenced the issuance of EEG to genuine exporters but the grant was later suspended in 2007 due to duplicitous claims and counter-claims by stakeholders over who and who should indeed benefit from the package.
The exporters say government’s inaction is causing mounting challenges to their members. One of such major challenges is the accumulating interests on loans. “We have taken up debts to service the receivables and these debts are incurring further interests with the continuing delay in the payment of EEG claims’, they explain.
OPSEA members play vital role in economic diversification through their contribution in generating the much needed foreign exchange earnings through export and creating numerous job opportunities via their operations throughout the country.
It could be equally recalled that diversification of the economy is one of the main policy initiatives of the Buhari administration that is aimed at shifting the nation’s economy from oil-based to non-oil sectors.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) in one of its weekly meetings gave approval for the payment of the EEG Promissory Notes. It was equally gathered that the EEG claims by the non-oil exporters have been processed and prepared by the federal government implementation committee with members drawn from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning, Federal Inland Revenue Service as well as Nigeria Export Promotion Council.
Even the N350 billion EEG claim is said to have been audited by officials of Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) since last year but exporters are bewildered that even with all the said inputs on the matter, nothing positive is yet to come their way in terms of payment.
Stakeholders strongly advice that the federal government should carry private sector players along if they want to realize their economic diversification agenda.
They believe that faithful implementation of the EEG policy is the needed elixir to help track performance in the non-oil sector and accelerate the rate of industrial growth in the country.
Western Metal Products Company (WEMPCO) has debunked claims that it is planning to end its business operations in the country.
It said its proposed divestment in its Lagos Oriental Hotel was purely a business decision.
WEMPCO noted that despite the challenging business environment, it was committed to and had “unshakable” faith in the resilience of the economy, like it has had for over 50 years.
In a statement yesterday, the company said media reports to the contrary were rumours and false.
It said WEMPCO Group of Companies was founded by businessman and entrepreneur Mr. K.F. Tung over 50 years ago.
Tung, 97, passed away on March 27, 20l9 “surrounded by his family at the age of 97.”
The company said: “While K.F.’s presence and guidance will be missed, both the Tung family and everyone at the WEMPCO Group of Companies remain fully committed to contributing to the ongoing growth and development of Nigeria
“We must hereby categorically state that there has never been and there is no intention of the WEMPCO group to exit Nigeria as stated in the reports.”
Addressing the Oriental Hotel controversy, it said:
“The Lagos Oriental Hotel is a flagship in the Nigerian hospitality business but is not a flagship of the WEMPCO Group. It is an investment made by the Group in 2008, but not part of our core manufacturing business.
“Although the recent spate of advertisement of the Hotel was not initiated or authorised by our Group, to divest in the asset would simply be a commercial decision based on the merits of a reasonable transaction.
“Contrary to claims in the reports that the WEMPCO Group had relied on Federal Government waivers, the Group has never received special concessions outside of those extended to industries as a whole.” (The Nation)