There are few nights like those under the Anfield lights on the European stage and one of Jurgen Klopp’s right-hand men has had the privilege of watching from the best seat in the house.
Liverpool’s history is long seeped in continental glory, a stage that conjures up magic and produces history and, of course, silverware.
Goalkeeping coach John Achterberg has been there every step of the way and you will often see him being one of the first to jump off the bench and celebrate a goal!
Admitting that he doesn’t “sleep too well the night before a game,” Achterberg lives every moment of every game and with a shot at No. 7 this season, This Is Anfield got his view on the best European Anfield nights with Klopp at the helm.
Liverpool 2-0 Man United – 2016 Europa League, Last 16, First Leg
It represented the first big European night for Klopp, and Achterberg remembers it well.
“When you come to Liverpool, you learn quickly about what the big games are. To play them in a European game was massive,” he explained.
“I think we were all fired up, ready and had big aggression – we were all aggressive on the bench, too.
“It was still the old Main Stand and I remember shouting when we scored the first goal and jumping up. I won’t repeat what I said – Pete [Krawietz] was laughing his head off!
“We obviously played really well and were on fire. The atmosphere in the crowd was amazing, lifting the team.”
Liverpool 4-3 Dortmund – 2016 Europa League, Quarter-Final, Second Leg
If Barcelona takes the top spot, this one is not far behind for the sheer drama of what unfolded – from being two goals down on the night inside nine minutes to a last-minute Dejan Lovren winner.
By night’s end, there were tears in the stands and disbelief aplenty as Liverpool conjured up the spirit of old to conquer Klopp’s old side in the most thrilling of manners.
“I was getting goosebumps the way people were shouting and signing [in 2013/14]. That lifted the players,” Achterberg told TIA.
“The Dortmund game was the first time it happened for the boss like that and he could see there is a lot of hunger for the team to win something.
“It pumps the adrenaline, you all get fired up without losing your head. You get the right motivation, spirit and mindset for the game.”
It really did prove to be a taste of things to come!
Liverpool 3-0 Man City – 2018 Champions League, Quarter-Final, First Leg
The night saw ‘Allez Allez Allez’ come to life as Liverpool hung on before completing the job in a professional manner at the Etihad, what a tie it ended up being!
“I don’t sleep that well the night before a game because I’m always thinking about if everything is going to go well or not,” Achterberg admitted.
“You take the pressure of the goalkeeper playing well or not and you just hope everything goes well and everyone is on it.
“In this game, City were already a massive team and playing good football. They were probably quite a bit ahead of us at that moment.
“We were flying in that game, which stood us in good stead for the second leg.”
Liverpool 5-2 Roma – 2018 Champions League, Semi-Final, First Leg
A night where Salah was unplayable, scoring two and assisting two as Klopp’s trusted and formidable front three all got on the scoreboard.
It was a scoreline that proved vital for safe passage to the final, but notably, it was a match that saw Alisson get his first taste of Anfield – three months before he would call it home.
And when looking back on this particular electric night, Achterberg could not look past how Alisson and Liverpool’s paths crossed.
“You feel it [the atmosphere] when it’s big games. We are lucky that we have quite a few of them at the moment. The European games are special but it happens sometimes in the league, too,” he said.
“I also remember the Sean Cox situation from after the game and that sticks in everyone’s memory as well. That was a bad situation that killed the mood after a good game.
“Obviously Ali was in goal. I had been following him for a long time, so it was good to see him play live.
“He conceded a lot of goals but he couldn’t do too much about them. It was just the way we finished them and the way we played that night. The team was flying.
“I’d been watching [Alisson] since 2012 when he played for Internacional. I asked Doni if there were any goalkeepers out in Brazil who I should look at and he said ‘yeah, look at Ali’.
“The first time I saw Ali live was in the USA when we played Roma in a pre-season friendly. I had already told the boss about him and then he liked him in that game.
“We had also talked about other goalies too: Manuel Neuer when he was at Schalke, Samir Handanovic at Udinese and Marc-Andre ter Stegen when he was at Borussia Monchengladbach. I talked about them as well.
“We had a lot of money to spend and the owners wanted the best goalie out there – I told the boss he was the only one I would spend that amount of money on. The boss then decides – he is in charge of that decision.”
And what an incredible decision it proved to be.
Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona – 2019 Champions League, Semi-Final, Second Leg
Just the mention of this game will bring an immediate smile such was the manner and significance of the result, from “corner taken quickly…Origi” to Gini Wijnaldum‘s quick-fire double off the bench.
The 90 minutes had it all and with Liverpool missing a couple of key figures, the Reds defied all odds in what many will agree as the greatest European night at Anfield.
“It started with the boss. We were missing a few players – Bobby and Mo were not there – and we had Shaqiri starting,” Achterberg reflected.
“People probably wrote us off but if you look at the away game, I was sitting on the bench looking at the chances we had and thinking we were going to score any time. Then out of nothing, they scored two or three goals.
“The boss basically said ‘I know everyone has written us off, but I have faith and believe in you. It could be a great thing and we could write some history for your grandkids.’
“In the meeting, he also said that if anyone can do it, it’s us. In the end, the boys were on fire and everyone would’ve remembered the boss’ speech.”
A night that will stand the test of time.
Lots of love for the boss
But what does Achterberg have to say about Klopp himself?
“When the boss came in it was like I had already known him for 10 years; the way he speaks to you, tells you things and acts,” Achterberg said.
“Every day is a joy working with him and I hope and think it is the same for every player. He lifted the club to a new level but also the supporters. He changed the atmosphere in the stadium.
“He was saying they left early but then they stayed until the last second because he was telling them ‘we will win games in the last second’.
“Like he said, ‘doubters to believers’, and that’s all credit to the boss. He changed the culture back to what it was in the past, by bringing a winning mentality and a way of working.”
Five trophies so far, but you feel there are plenty more to come.