Magical Mo Salah, Roma’s misplaced bravery, and Liverpool’s Champions League destiny: Five things we learned

Liverpool have one foot in the final despite conceding two late goals

Jack Austin
Tuesday 24 April 2018 21:14
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Liverpool fans await team bus arrival outside Anfield stadium ahead of Roma game

What a magical night at Anfield. Liverpool thumped Roma 5-2 thanks to a rampant frontline which claimed all of the goals.

Mohamed Salah dazzled with two goals and two assists, Roberto Firmino found the net twice himself, and Sadio Mane, who missed a hat-full in the first half, got on the scoresheet as well. However, two late goals from Roma have left the tie still in question.

Here’s five things we learned from another memorable European night on Merseyside…

All English midfield

If, 12 months ago, you were told that a team had reached the Champions League semi-final with the midfield of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, you probably would have to be fairly inebriated to believe it. But that’s the midfield that beat Manchester City so convincingly and the one that was tasked with beating Roma on Tuesday night.

It only lasted for 15 minutes, however, as Oxlade-Chamberlain was stretchered off and Liverpool were robbed his energy and dynamism from deep. The Reds will of course hope it was just a heavy knock considering how they wobbled in the immediate aftermath against a bigger and strong Roman midfield. Gareth Southgate may just have his fingers crossed too.

Brave Roma… for the first 25 minutes

Considering how Liverpool blew away Manchester City here early this month, Roma would have been forgiven for keeping in tight in the opening stages of the first leg at Anfield but they did anything but. They dominated the early exchanges, looking bigger, stronger and more dominant in the centre of the pitch.

Well, that was the case for the first third of the game, after that, the bravery looked misplaced. Liverpool suddenly switched it on and pinned Roma back into their own half as wave after wave crashed against the visitors’ defensive wall. Five goals later and that positive start seemed a long, long time ago. Two late goals for Roma though... a three goal difference was the state of play after the quarter-final first leg with Barcelona.

Salah… who else?

When Salah joined Liverpool in the summer – from Roma ironically – he had a reputation as a wasteful and inefficient forward, albeit still dangerous. Well, he doesn’t have that reputation anymore. No one can quite answer why there is such a transformation but the one thing that is obvious is his confidence.

(REUTERS)

He has a few shots, all dealt with by Alisson with ease, but it was the way that he kept coming back and testing the Roma goalkeeper showed that regardless of where his last shot went, top corner of the net or top corner of the stand, he still believes he will score with his next go. And he did. Twice. Each goal completely different to the other one. Oh, and then there were the two fantastic assists, too.

What Italian defence?

When The Independent met Kevin Strootman this week, he was asked if Roma were making any special plans to stop Salah. He said they were and joked it would be an “Italian defence” that would see him come unstuck. If that’s the case then Italian defending isn’t what it used to be.

Liverpool were allowed far too many chances and far too much time to shoot on goal, and this was never more evident than for Salah’s opener. Kostas Manolas stood about three yards off Salah when he had the ball on the edge of the area, giving him all the time in the world, on his left foot as well, to bend a strike into the top corner. They were lucky not to concede a second almost immediately after as Dejan Lovren’s free header hit the crossbar.

Written in the stars... or a Roman repeat?

Could this actually be Liverpool’s year? They’ve scored the most goals in the competition this season, they’ve finally sorted their defence out (for the most part), they’ve got the second-best player in the competition this season (Cristiano Ronaldo may still be ahead of Salah) and they’ve got the belief.

Despite two late Roma goals, the Reds should still be able to look forward to a trip to Kiev unless Roma repeat their unlikely turnaround against Barcelona from the last round. Real Madrid or Bayern Munich await in the final, neither of whom have a reputation for an especially strong defence. Liverpool could well go to the final as favourites.

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