Toppled Roma regather their feet in Liverpool
ROME – An explosive Liverpool side, led by Mohamed Salah, cruised past Roma in the Champions League semi-final, scoring five goals to seemingly settle the tie mid-way through the second half. Roma, however, showed late resilience, somewhat recovering an embarrassing result, as two late goals reduced the scoring to 5-2.
In a positive opening from both sides, Roma were the first to test their opposing keeper as the ball fell to Kevin Strootman in a dangerous position, whose strike should have caused more problems.
Liverpool also began brightly, in a free-flowing Champions League tie, with Salah releasing Firmino down the right flank, who flashed an untouched ball across the face of Alisson’s goal.
Aleksandar Kolarov rattled the bar soon after as Loris Karius made a mess of the Serbian’s effort, but the Liverpool keeper was fortunate that his fluffed hand did enough to flick the ball onto the goal frame, bouncing clear.
But that was to be the Italian’s last threat of the half as Liverpool stepped up a gear, with their front three driving dangerously at a fluttery Roma defensive line.
Sadio Mané spurned three clear-cut chances, although his slips were quickly forgotten, outshined by the sheer brilliance of former Roma forward, Mohamed Salah.
A slight glimpse of goal was all the Egyptian needed, guiding a sublime strike into the top left-hand corner with Alisson well beaten.
Salah may have been apologetic, but he was in no mood to sympathise.
Ten minutes later he was set free by Roberto Firmino, racing in behind as the Roma defence scrambled to recover.
If the build-up was good, the finish was class; Salah exquisitely chipped the outrushing Karius to double Liverpool’s lead.
And he was at it again in the 56th minute, buying himself acres of space on the right and coolly picking out Mané who brushed home a third.
An evening which promised so much had been emphatically turned on its head. Opportunities piled up as Liverpool had further chances to add a fourth, fifth or six – and the home fans hardly left disappointed.
Firmino, this time, eager to get in on the act, was teed up by the imperious Mohamed Salah. The entire game, it seemed, would revolve around the ubiquitous Egyptian, whose every touch lifted Liverpool fans from their seats.
The rout was complete soon after as Firmino rose well to place James Milner’s corner into the left-hand corner.
Embarrassing, excruciating, and at times, troublingly frail.
All Roma’s good work against Barcelona appeared to have been undone in just over an hour of scintillating football from Jürgen Klopp’s side. The Giallorossi were utterly rattled.
Yet, with the clock running down, Edin Dzeko, so often Roma’s spark throughout this campaign, found himself round the back of Dejan Lovren and finished superbly, although his goal hardly called for wild celebrations.
Liverpool, however, were unexpectedly shaken and their stroll suddenly became a slog.
As further chances began to emerge, Radja Nainggolan’s shot from outside the box thundered into the arm of Milner and was awarded with a penalty.
In place of his captain, Diego Perotti confidently converted the spot kick, finding the top corner to give Roma an arguably undeserved glimmer of hope late on, with the home leg still to come.
The Italians are no strangers to a three-goal deficit having unforgettably overturned Barcelona in the previous leg, but a repeat of their magical performance will be no easy feat.
They now have a week to regather themselves in the Italian capital and search for a stoppage-time answer to containing the free-scoring Liverpool attack.
The seven-goal thriller shows this tie is by no means over, but nothing short of perfection will get Roma over the line at the Stadio Olimpico next Tuesday.