Mohamed Salah delivers Liverpool victory but Roma retain hope
Two late Italian goals take the gloss off a masterclass from Jurgen Klopp’s side
Liverpool 5 Roma 2
Two late goals from Roma kept alive their hopes of reaching the Champions League final despite being outclassed for most of their semi-final first leg against Liverpool at Anfield last night.
The two sides produced a total of seven goals, many of them superb, in a thrilling game that sets up the second leg for Rome next Wednesday.
That Roma are still in with a slim shout of reaching their first Champions League final since 1984 is down to Liverpool’s loss of focus in the final ten minutes. Having dominated their visitors until then, the Reds allowed Edin Dzeko to pull one back for Roma on 81 minutes. Diego Perotti then made it 5-2 by scoring from the penalty spot after James Milner had got his hand in the way of Radja Nainggolan’s shot.
The result means Roma must do what they did against Barcelona in the quarter-final and overturn a three-goal deficit in front of their fans - a tough but not impossible task.It is not an unfamiliar position for Liverpool either. They were three goals to the good in the last round against Manchester City and went on to win the second leg. And if Liverpool play the way they did for the first 80 minutes against Roma, they should comfortably progress to next month’s final in Kiev.
They were simply unstoppable - despite losing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with what looked like a nasty knee injury - and should have scored twice through Sadio Mane before Mohamed Salah finally put them ahead on 35 minutes. The Egyptian found the net from the edge of the box with a glorious strike that underlined why he was voted the PFA Player of the Year on Sunday.
Ten minutes later Salah made it 2-0, running on to Roberto Firmino’s pass and coolly chipping the advancing goalkeeper, Alisson.
Mane atoned for his wastefulness ten minutes into the second half as Salah turned provider, before Firmino got in on the act, scoring twice in seven minutes as Liverpool booked their place in the final. Or so we all thought.
Then came the late late show from the Italians, who were perhaps roused by the sight of Salah being substituted following his masterful performance against his old club.
On most evenings a side emerging from the first leg of a semi-final with a three-goal advantage would be delighted, but Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson sounded disappointed with the outcome as he gave his post-match assessment. “It felt as though we were in full control but we basically gave them two goals. You can’t do that in the Champions League,” he said.
“Overall, we have got to stay positive. We knew it would not be easy tonight, we know it will not be easy there. It will be a challenge but one we will look forward to and one we will hopefully finish them off.”
It was a similar message from Jurgen Klopp, who described his side’s performance as “brilliant”, before cautioning: “We have work to do in Rome, that’s no problem. There would have been work even if we had won 5-0, Roma would have tried everything to strike back.”
The Liverpool manager added that if Roma can come back against Barcelona then they can do likewise against his side. “Roma need to score goals against us and I’ve said it a few times, and it shouldn’t sound like a warning, but we are not Barcelona. They are one of the two or three best teams in the world and won so many things in the last two years and we didn’t... and if one of my players doesn’t think Roma will try to come back, then he will not play.”
Meanwhile, Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco lamented that his side had made life “easy” for Liverpool with their defending, but warned: “We will see a very different Roma in the second leg... we said before the Barcelona game that we believed totally in our chances and I say the same now.”
Liverpool vs. Roma: Mo Salah key in battle of underdogs
Apr 24, 2018
Liverpool will host Roma tonight at Anfield in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, a clash that few would have anticipated a month ago.
With the Reds drawn against Manchester City in the last eight, and Roma paired with Barcelona, the smart money was on the two leaders of their respective domestic leagues to progress.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted as much on Monday when he addressed the press ahead of this evening’s showdown. “I do understand that probably a lot of people thought this semi-final would have been usually Barcelona against Manchester City,” he said. “But it’s not, because it’s football. Roma made it possible and we did as well.”
Liverpool not only beat City, they thrashed the runaway leaders of the Premier League, inflicting a 5-1 aggregate win on the Sky Blues. Roma, on the other hand, staged one of the great comebacks in the history of the Champions League, overturning a 4-1 deficit from the first leg to Barcelona with a 3-0 triumph in the Italian capital.
“I came up the stairs at Manchester City and somebody told me Roma won 3-0,” said Klopp, looking back on the shock of the season. “I thought in the first second, ‘not possible’ because the opponent was Barcelona. But I love that game because it is possible.”
Sounding remarkably relaxed ahead of the club’s biggest game in years, the German even made a quip at his own expense, and that of his Roma counterpart Eusebio Di Francesco. Asked if there were any similarities between the two coaches, Klopp said: “We both wear glasses and have a bad shave!”
What gives tonight’s tie an added piquancy is that Liverpool signed Mo Salah from Roma last summer, an acquisition that has played a large part in propelling the Reds into the semi-final, with the Egyptian’s contribution to the Anfield cause recognised at the weekend with his winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.
“Losing Emerson and Mo Salah is really difficult,” said Klopp. “It’s quite difficult to find players like this, you have them on a specific level and you lose them. We really had a similar situation [losing Philip Coutinho]. But we continued believing in ourselves, and Roma obviously the same.”
Asked if he thought this semi-final was the battle of the underdogs, given that tomorrow’s semi-final pits Bayern Munich against Real Madrid, Klopp said: “If anybody thinks we two are the underdogs, who cares? We are in the semi-final and we can go to the final, that’s all I care about... for Roma it is a big thing the semi-final, like it is for us... We don’t have experience, that’s not good, but we are not used to it – that means you will see the excitement of both teams in a positive way. That’s how football should be.”
Salah, who has already scored 41 goals in his first season at Anfield, will be crucial for Liverpool as they seek to establish a first-leg advantage before the trip to Rome on Wednesday week. The Egyptian ace will be on a high following his award, an honour that Klopp believes is fully deserved. “I’m really happy for him,” he said. “He can be really proud of that, it’s a fantastic achievement. I think if all the other players vote for you that means the most to all players... and I really have to say, in a season like this when Kevin de Bruyne plays a season like he played, it makes it even more special.”
Nonetheless Klopp had a message for Salah. “It’s great, but he knows the season is not finished so far. There are a lot of things to come.”