Liverpool are set to travel to Italy with a 3 goal advantage after winning 5-2 at Anfield in the first leg of the Champions League Semi Finals.
Liverpool’s squad had been rested by Jurgen Klopp in a recent Premier League fixture so that all they key players would be ready for the up and coming Champions League Semi Final leg 1 against Roma. We were prepared and even sacrificed 2 points by only claiming a draw against West Brom while not putting a full strength squad out.
It took 35 minutes for Liverpool to start scoring in this two leg tie. We’d tried hard and set a strong and quick attacking tone for the game from early on but actual goals took more than half an hour to arrive, though it would still be the first half.
How’d the scoring all start?
Mané picked up a loose ball in the middle of the park before finding Firmino at the top of the area. Mané had been one of the most regular attackers from the start of the game. Just not exactly hitting the back of the net, though nobody could deny he’d been working hard. There was a bit of a messy build up but eventually the ball got up to Salah.
Salah lifts his head up to check where the last defender and goalkeeper were located and then lets fly with a curling and absolutely stunning effort into the top far corner that just couldn’t be stopped by anyone. Liverpool 1-0 Roma.
10 minutes later and Roma were probably already set to get into the Anfield dressing rooms and figure out what had gone wrong for them so far but Salah wasn’t done scoring in this half just yet. Firmino and Salah moved liked shadows, drifting past defenders while they helped each other get further and further towards goal. One of them looked set to score, Salah ends up with the final assist as he rushes the ball past Alisson and into the bottom corner of the net. Liverpool 2-0 Roma.
Salah did not celebrate either of these goals, seemingly having some respect for his former club and clearly not wanting to rub his new success into their faces.
Liverpool would go in at the half time break winning by two goals to nothing. I was still very proud of my team and my goalkeeper for keeping a clean sheet to this point. It felt like 45 minutes played without Roma scoring meant another 45 minutes played could also see no goals conceded against our opposition.
When the teams came back out, it was back to more great attacking football. Roma hadn’t been without their moments of attacks and significant chances to score but Karius and the defenders in front of him had seemed to deal with most things coming their way just fine. No big deal.
It took 11 minutes of the second half to open up the scoring once more in the 56th minute.
There’s a ball down the right-hand side of the pitch, about 30 yards long. The long ball picks out Salah, who’s collected the ball and made his way into the penalty area. He’s already scored twice so will he try for a hat trick? Unselfishly, NO! He’s going to give an assist to his teammate.
Salah cuts the ball back for Mané who does not miss this golden opportunity to score, accurately slotting the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net in front of the adoring Reds fans at Anfield. Liverpool 3-0 Roma.
This felt like the Manchester City fixture in the Quarter Finals, now. We’d taken a 3 goal lead to our second leg tie with us. It sure looked like we could repeat that result but this fixture was far from over yet.
A show of brilliant football in the 60th minute from young star Trent Alexander-Arnold saw him put the ball right into the path of Salah down on the right hand side of the box and it’s an easy run for the Egyptian to go collect it. He’d make easy work of getting around Jesus and then Salah was ready to set up Firmino for the 4th goal of the game. Beautiful build up. Beautiful goal. Bobby was getting in on the scoring finally after Mané and Salah had already benefited from the trio’s outstanding teamwork with goals themselves. This was a joy to watch. Liverpool 4-0 Roma.
Could we get more? Would we go further ahead? There was half an hour to play and Liverpool had scored 4 times. Twice before and after the half time break so far. Would the final 30 minutes see us score again? We certainly didn’t seem like letting up, the attacking formations were hard at work and causing Roma trouble with every move up the pitch. You couldn’t tell if someone was going to shoot for goal, assist a teammate or generally run the ball around the pitch, for control of possession.
7 minutes later, Liverpool would score again.
In the 67th minute, James Milner delivers a corner and Roma seemed lacking in their defensive play, which sees the unmarked Firmino heading home quite easily, accepting the opportunity to get his second goal of the game and Liverpool’s 5th. Liverpool 5-0 Roma.
This was a strange part of the game that came next. Down by five goals, Roma seemed to come to life. Like they had an angry manager on their sidelines yelling at them to do better or something. That’s probably not what encouraged them to get a couple of goals actually, but they would. Most Reds fans had been wondering by now if we’d manage to get yet another 7-0 victory as our Champions League campaign had seen us do twice earlier in the season. But no, the next two goals would be Roma’s.
Liverpool would make their 2nd substitution of their game as the manager decides to swap Salah out for Danny Ings. A turning point, perhaps. Liverpool’s only other changed had been in the 1st half when Wijnaldum came on for the injured Oxlade-Chamberlain. Ings knows how to score too, you know. He’d even proven that against West Brom recently. This was another chance for Ings to maybe show what he can do to get goals.
It was in the 81st minute that Roma would manage to get their first goal. A surprising diagonal ball into the box from Nainggolan picked out Dzeko. I don’t like to criticise our defenders but there was someone to blame for a mistake and that was Lovren who was rather out of position and allowed Dzeko enough space to make his way towards goal and for shooting at close range past Karius. Finally, the Italians have something to cheer about at Anfield as it becomes Liverpool 5-1 Roma
Four more minutes of Roma attacking and Liverpool were to concede again.
A fast flurry of balls around the box saw Roma make a final shot that was going goalwards but struck James Milner on his arm as it went towards it’s target. I don’t need to tell the Reds fans that Milner is absolutely NOT a cheater, but the referee saw some kind of foul play and would award the penalty kick to Roma in the 85th minute. Karius did all he could, I’d had confidence in him to save it but it wasn’t to be and Perotti, who had only been substituted on in the 66th minute had made it Liverpool 5-2 Roma.
With very little time left, Liverpool would end game this way. In the 92nd minute, Ragnar Klavan would be substituted on and he seemed to be our last possible hope for another goal. Earlier in the season, he’d scored a 94th minute goal and the fans all went crazy with appreciation and love for Klavan around that time. He’s not done it again since then but you never know what can happen and he might find it possible to repeat his glory for the Liverpool fans again some time. It’s a threat as long as Klopp keeps trying to bring him on late into the game.
Full time and it ends Liverpool 5-2 Roma.
Certainly, the two away goals are quite an advantage to Roma but Liverpool are still 3 goals ahead and you need to be drawing on aggregate for away goals to give you progression to the next round of the tournament. Could Roma really win 3-0 in Italy? Doubtful. A single goal or two for Liverpool at our opponents stadium would effectively cancel out the goals scored by them at Anfield. The aggregate score is still in our favour. This would be much more worrying if it had ended 2-2.
Man of the Match
2 goals and 2 assists and some unselfish play that he could have easily used to get himself a hat trick saw Salah give Liverpool a significant advantage over Roma as we head out to Italy for the 2nd leg. He’s brought his total of goals to 43 and that’s the 2nd best all time record for the club. Ian Rush played 65 appearances and scored 47 times (in all competitions) in the 1983-1984 season.That’s the only record left to break, having broken Roger Hunt’s record of 42 goals. Even if Rush’s record isn’t broken, you have to admit that Liverpool won’t have given Salah 65 games to break it in, teams generally play less games nowadays with less teams to face in the top division (just 38 league fixtures, including both home and away). There won’t be a Red out there that doesn’t believe he won’t be able to break this last record, though. 5 goals to go, with important Semi Finals and possibly even Final of the Champions League still to participate in, with various Premier League fixtures also too. The opportunities are there.
We’re not off to Italy just yet. First, we’ll have to visit Stoke for some Premier League football.
Walk on with hope in your hearts, Anfield Family. You’ll Never Walk Alone.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (more than 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s