LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are in sight of a return to the Champions League Final after 11 years following a thrilling 5-2 defeat of Roma at Anfield.
Goals from Mohamed Salah (35 and 45 minutes), Sadio Mane (56) and Roberto Firmino (61) put the Reds in total command after a bright opening from the Italian club. However, just when even more goals appeared likely, Roma snapped back and grabbed two goals to gain a slight glimpse of hope ahead of the return.
In the quarter-finals Roma had recovered from 4-1 down in Barcelona to win 3-0 at home and go through on the away goals rule.
Salah was the inspiration against his former club Roma with two brilliant first-half goals, his 42nd and 43rd of a remarkable season.
The downside were goals from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti and a knee injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who left the pitch on a stretcher with his head in his hands and his knee in a brace to put his World Cup in some doubt.
Roma went close earlier on when goalkeeper Loris Karius misread the flight of a shot from former Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov but managed to push it on to the bar.
Then Liverpool took over with three goals in 19. Mane could have had a hat-trick, hitting two good chances over and having a sliding effort disallowed for offside, while Salah had a shot palmed away by keeper Alisson.
Minutes later Salah cut in and curled his shot beyond Alisson for his first goal. Minutes later Dejan Lovren headed over the bar before Salah exchanged passes with Firmino before clipping another shot over Alisson.
After the break Salah turned provider, racing onto Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ball down the line to cross for Mane to turn home from close range.
Alexander-Arnold and Salah then combined again so Firmino could score from close range.
Firmino’s header from a corner made it 5-0 but Dzeko’s neat finish and Perotti’s penalty gave Roma hope of repeating their brilliant quarter-final comeback at home to Barcelona.
Klopp said afterwards: “It was a perfect performance for pretty much 80 minutes or so, then we made one defensive mistake and Dzeko made the most of the situation. That’s the rules of the competition, each goal you score helps massively.
“I would be much more happy if we had won 5-0 or 5-1 but 5-2 is still a fantastic result.
“I could not even have imagined that was possible, so the boys still did outstandingly good and we go there and try to win again, that’s it.”
** Two men have been arrested and charged by police after a 53-year-old man was hurt outside Anfield in fan fighting before the match.
Liverpool, in a statement, said:
Liverpool Football Club is shocked and appalled after a Liverpool supporter was left in a critical condition having been attacked prior to the Champions League fixture against AS Roma.
Our thoughts, in the first instance, are with the victim and his family at this very traumatic time. We will be offering them our full support.
The club has been liaising with the emergency services since the incident occurred and will continue to do so.
Liverpool FC directs supporters and those in attendance at the game to Merseyside Police’s appeal for information.