Liverpool 5 - 2 Roma: Reds leave door open for another Giallorossi comeback
Seven goals in one leg of a Champions League semi-final. We couldn’t have asked for more. Liverpool and Roma gave us a contest to relish. The Merseysiders gave their Italian visitors a thorough shakedown. Comeback emperors but poor on the night, Roma didn’t go down without creating a massive doubt in the hearts of Anfield diehards. The Reds let them.
By the 70th minute, the hosts were already five up. Seemingly one question remained: who would Liverpool face in Kyiv? Fifteen minutes later, the guarantee had been revoked. Even Jurgen Klopp had his doubts.
“At this moment it doesn’t feel all positive because they scored these two goals but tomorrow I will see the really good part of the game”
Roma started almost as strongly as they finished. They were giving no quarter. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain lay wincing in pain on the turf inside the quarter-hour, the atmosphere promised a tough night for everyone involved. Then Aleksandar Kolarov rattled the crossbar from a distance, with Loris Karius barely able to intervene after first misjudging the ball's trajectory. Liverpool responded. Sadio Mane missed two prime opportunities, firing the first over the bar, the other into Goodison Park. Mohamed Salah was more composed. He cut to the inside on a counterattack and curled in his 42nd goal of the season. Alisson Becker had no chance. Salah added his 43rd nine minutes later to give the Reds some swagger.
Roma prayed for the interval. It came, but not to their rescue. The Giallorossi were still dismal, defending like a group of schoolboys forced to do the task of valiant men. Liverpool overran them.
Man like Mo Salah
Salah is the definition of a bargain. For the first time since Luis Suarez left, the Egyptian is reminding the Kop what it feels like to have a potent talisman. The comparisons to Messi and Ronaldo become more valid every match. At halftime, it was Mo Salah 2-0 Roma. With the likes of Sadio Mane and Dejan Loveren fluffing glorious chances, Salah was carrying the club.
Eleven minutes after the restart, Salah again broke the offside trap to put one on a plate for Mane. The Senegalese made amends for his earlier misses. Seven minutes later, Salah made sure Roberto Firmino had his moment, as well.
With a brace in both goals and assists, Salah made Roma pay for not being able to tie him down. The winger became the first Liverpool player in history to score 10 goals in a season in European football. Then Jurgen Klopp pressed the wrong button.
In the 75th minute, Roberto Firmino grabbed his brace after heading home James Milner’s pinpoint cross. Up by a quintet, the roar from Anfield must’ve woken Everton fans. The game was a couple of goals from over though. For some reason, Jurgen Klopp thought it was. With the job done (in his head), it was time to holster his blood-stained battle-axe. Salah was withdrawn to a rousing ovation. Fifteen precious minutes of opportunity were still blinking on the chronometer, though, and Roma took advantage.
With Salah off, Liverpool slowed. Their focal point wasn’t there. Sorry if you’re a Firmino fan. The Giallorossi had nothing more to lose. They attacked in numbers. It paid off when Edin Dzeko connected beautifully with Radja Nainggolan’s surging pass to nick one past Klarius. Four minutes later, another assault on the Red’s rearguard resulted in a penalty. Milner was controversially adjudged to have blocked Nainggolan’s shot with his arm. Diego Perrotti didn't miss.
All of a sudden, Mo Salah didn’t look as cheerful as he was when subbed off. Klopp was pacing up and down the touchline. Taking out the fear-factor he had in attack with a third of the half still to play was spoiling the party.
As the team who came from three goals down to dump Barcelona in the quarter-final, the Giallorossi cannot be counted for dead just yet.