As Liverpool and Roma played out a thrilling 5-2 Champions League semi-final first leg, Ger McCarthy looks at what we learned from the game.
As expected, Liverpool were bright and inventive whenever entering the final third of their semi-final first leg but unlike recent Champions League ties, unable to conjure up an early goal.
The cut and thrust normally provided by Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané was initially subdued by Roma’s defence and all three were guilty of squandering chances until the Egyptian international reaffirmed his importance to Liverpool’s cause.
Salah took his total to an astonishing 43 goals in all competitions - 11 in the Champions League, a record for a Liverpool striker - with two trademark finishes plus an assist for Mané and Firmino. A performance that makes you wonder why his former club didn’t ask for double the original £38 million transfer fee.
Take your pick of nicknames, ‘Pyramid Pele’ ‘Desert Dalglish’, ‘Cairo Cristiano or simply ‘Egyptian King’, Mohamed Salah is not just the Premier League’s Player of the Year but the continent’s as well.
Where would Liverpool be without him?
On a bad evening in Roma
Eusebio Di Francesco’s decision to deploy a 3-4-2-1 formation rather than Roma’s more familiar 4-3-3 managed to frustrate Liverpool for the opening half an hour, a period in which Aleksandar Kolarov rattled the home side’s crossbar.
The Italians were more than comfortable until a missed Sadio Mané chance ignited the Liverpool players and supporters into life. From that moment on there would only be one winner.
Suddenly, Roma looked a shell of their former selves as the hosts’ movement, pace and accuracy of passing repeatedly exploited space behind the Serie A side’s defence.
Conceding five goals was bad enough but Di Francesco’s insistence on persisting with a high defensive line against such a pacy attack will be called into question. Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti’s late goals apart, the inquest from an unforgiving Italian press and Roma Ultras could make for a difficult few days in Italy’s capital.
Throughout the 2017-18 season, Jurgen Klopp’s uber-confident manner has rubbed off on his players most notably during his club’s march to the last four of the Champions League.
Liverpool’s manager has built a team so dangerous on the counter-attack that no defence is safe as evidenced by the carving open of a Roma back five that previously knocked out Barcelona.
Confident, positive and unrelenting, Liverpool are a mirror image of their manager which makes their repeated defensive mistakes all the more galling. 5-0 up, Klopp’s side inexplicably conceded two late goals to give hope to a Roma team that had looked and buried. An unnecessarily nervy night awaits in Rome.