Please don’t drop the ball, Adrian: Neil Humphreys
Ghost of Karius hangs over a jittery Anfield after Spaniard's Blues blunder
The ghosts of Europe loom large across Anfield. Most of them are goalkeepers.
They spook with their spaghetti legs. They haunt with their butter fingers. They save penalties or Liverpool paid the penalty.
The Reds are a club still in search of a middle ground when it comes to European Cups and goalkeepers. They are heroic or hopeless. They are consistently inconsistent.
Not much has changed.
Tomorrow morning (Singapore time), Adrian must succeed where Loris Karius failed. If he keeps his head, his teammates won't lose theirs. If he drops the ball, the Champions League holders drop the trophy.
One soft goal conceded requires at least three from the Reds against Atletico Madrid, a feat arguably beyond even the 12th man of Anfield.
It has often been said that the omnipotent Kop is worth a goal start with its deafening tractor beam practically pulling the ball into the net.
But the Kop can't keep the ball out. Only Adrian can do that. And he couldn't against Chelsea.
The stakes were markedly lower, but his clanger in the recent FA Cup defeat unnerved the already nervous among the Reds. The last thing Liverpool need is a goalkeeper with the yips ahead of the biggest match of their season - and his career.
Blunders are the bane of any 'keeper's life. Every performance is essentially a 90-minute game of Russian roulette. Just one poor decision is enough to leave a 'keeper splattered across the back pages.
But Adrian had to have his cock-up as he prepared for the second leg of Liverpool's last-16 tie. He reached for Willian's speculative drive, but allowed it to squirm from his grasp like an overeager trout escaping a fisherman's clutches.
Such imagery, such a sense of deja vu, must be taunting jittery Reds. The Anfield faithful can all recite the grim fairy tale about the calamity 'keeper in the Champions League.
There once was a 'keeper called Karius. And on a chilly night in Kiev, the demons taunted him, the strikes defeated him and the subsequent trolls consumed him.
Two years ago, a 'keeper's bendy hands cost Liverpool the European Cup.
But 36 years ago, a 'keeper's bendy legs gifted Liverpool the European Cup.
Bruce Grobbelaar's spaghetti legs routine against AS Roma during the penalty shoot-out in 1984 was enough to make Francesco Graziani miss.
Since Grobbelaar's antics, Liverpool have known only boom or bust between the sticks on big European nights.
Jerzy Dudek borrowed Grobbelaar's spaghetti legs and took care of AC Milan in 2005. Karius froze in front of Gareth Bale as Real Madrid prevailed in 2018 and Alisson coolly kept a clean sheet against Tottenham Hotspur last year.
Liverpool goalkeepers and European Cups have followed a remarkably ordered pattern. The cycle often repeats itself. Heroic, horrendous, heroic and here comes Adrian.
The Spaniard isn't a sub-standard goalkeeper, by any means. He just isn't the best in England, much less Europe. Alisson is. But he's out with a hip injury.
When Adrian deputised earlier in the season, he was capable and reliable.
But the Reds were over-performing back then and he was under less pressure.
Even so, a recent report in the Liverpool Echo showed that Alisson has faced 56 shots on target in the English Premier League, stopping 45 of them and giving him a save percentage of 80.4 per cent (the best in the EPL).
Adrian, on the other hand, had faced 25 shots on target and saved 16 of them, or 64 per cent.
Additionally, Juergen Klopp's quick, pressing game depends on Alisson's distribution and swaggering confidence around the box. Adrian falls a tad short in both areas.
The 33-year-old remains a seasoned shot-stopper. Indeed, his agility saw him save the last penalty in the shoot-out to win the Uefa Super Cup against Chelsea. But he had nothing to lose then.
The odds are less favourable this time around.
One error and Liverpool will have a mountain to climb. Three goals feel like a miracle too many for the wearying Reds, even in this miraculous campaign.
A familiar storyline is set to play out at Anfield.
From Grobbelaar to Karius, Liverpool's custodians have always walked a fine line between fame and infamy in Europe.
In the autumn of his career, Adrian may need the game of his life.