Brave Roma fall just short against Liverpool
ROME – Liverpool survived a late scare but a valiant Roma side left themselves too much to do at the Stadio Olimpico, despite a 4-2 victory on the night. The Italians twice came from behind, but the 5-2 drubbing in the first-leg ultimately cost them a place in the Champions League final.
Expectant Roma fans were welcomed with a vibrant attacking display as Roma sought to claw their way out to the hole they had created at Anfield.
Whilst they may have dominated possession in the early stages, Liverpool demonstrated their ruthless edge and were first to strike through a clinical counter-attack.
Radja Nainggolan inexplicably bobbled a pass in between his two centre halves, and the loose ball was picked up by Roberto Firmino, rolling across to Sadio Mané who made no mistake with his finish, seemingly killing the tie with one strike of his left boot.
Yet, Roma quickly grabbed one back in the most bizarre circumstances. Edin Dzeko drove purposefully at Trent Alexander-Arnold down the left flank and fired the ball low across the face of goal.
The danger was dealt with by Dejan Lovren, although the Croatian hammered his clearance into the face of James Milner, sending the ball flying back into the goal.
Without doubt a lifeline, but the own-goal merely put the game back to where it started. Belief around the stadium, nonetheless, was restored.
Yet, if they needed a reminder of just how difficult their task was, Liverpool were happy to provide one.
Once again, a cheap goal to concede, Milner’s corner was half cleared, and at the second attempt, Dzeko reversed his header into the path of the Georginio Wijnaldum who calmly placed the ball past the helpless Alisson.
At 7-3 down on aggregate, Roma weren’t short of chances, but were unfortunate in a couple of refereeing decisions as both Alexander-Arnold and Karius were lucky to escape conceding penalties whilst Stephan El Shaarawy rattled the post.
Yet, for large swathes of the tie, Roma can’t claim to have been as clinical as Liverpool at Anfield.
With the game fast slipping away from them, El Shaarawy’s smart touch unlocked space down the left-hand side to attack the Liverpool defence. His shot tested Loris Karius and the keeper was only able to push the ball into the path of Dzeko who took one touch before burying confidently to draw a goal back.
Roma continued to probe but as the clock ticked down and the scorecard failed to turn, the atmosphere steadily waned as realisation began to sink in that reaching the final may be one step too far.
Nainggolan, the culprit of the Liverpool’s first goal, hit an unstoppable strike into the bottom left corner, reigniting hope of a dramatic finish. However, his muted celebration marked the excruciating pain of his earlier mistake and seemed to signal that Roma’s late surge would prove too little too late.
Their rally culminated in the awarding of a penalty which Nainggolan again decisively dispatched, but that was to be the final act of an enthralling spectacle.
Roma can certainly hold their heads high having, once again, proved a spirit and steel few teams are able to lay claim to, but in the end, they came up inches short of a repeat of their magical comeback against Barcelona.
Liverpool now look forward to a showdown with Real Madrid in the final in Kiev as Roma redirect their attention to qualification for next year’s Champions League.
Hopeful fans will no doubt already be craving the glamour of Europe’s elite competition following a bitter-sweet exit, but in time must reflect on this season’s stunning campaign.