Liverpool 5-2 Roma
Mo Salah has hand in four goals
Liverpool led 5-0 before Roma pulled two late goals back
Mohamed Salah put in a magical performance against former club Roma, as two goals and two assists helped Liverpool to a commanding first-leg Champions League semifinal lead.
The Egyptian led the rout from the first whistle as Liverpool found themselves 5-0 up with just 10 minutes of the game left to play.
However, a late Roma rally as Liverpool’s defence went to sleep saw Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti scored two late goals to give the Italians a glimmer of hope going into the second leg.
The two sides will meet again at the Stadio Olimpico in eight days’ time.
When Salah signed for Liverpool in June of 2017, Roma supporters were understandably sorry to see him go.
Thanks to individual moments of magic and no shortage of goals, the Egyptian became a firm fan favorite during his time in the Italian capital.
Fast forward to Anfield, little less than a year later, Roma were catching a glimpse of their former star for the first time and, now, they truly were sorry he ever left.
It felt scripted – Salah scoring two and providing two of Liverpool’s five-goal blitz – though, in reality, his recent scintillating form meant this was very much predictable.
Many of these Roma players had trained and played with Salah during his two years at the club, but in truth the 25-year-old never hit these kinds of heights in Italy.
If they had heard tales of Salah’s exploits since his move to England, tonight they were experiencing them first hand.
Liverpool had not tasted a first-leg Champions League semifinal win in their previous three attempts, while Roma have one of the worst away records in the competition.
After a closely contested opening 35 minutes, it was a case of who would blink first.
Following a brief interlude after not one, but two linesman’s flags had fallen apart and had to be repaired, Roberto Firmino got in behind Roma’s defence for the first time and flashed a low shot across the face of goal.
The Brazilian forward looked to have been inches offside, not that the linesman had a working flag to make the decision.
Jurgen Klopp’s plans were then dealt an early blow as the industrious Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced off with a knee injury sustained in a tackle with Aleksandar Kolorov.
Georginio Wijnaldum came on in his place and perhaps the substitution unsettled the home side as Roma almost took a surprise lead.
Cengiz Ünder’s outswinging corner narrowly missed Džeko’s head, before the ball fell to Kolorov on the edge of the box.
The former Manchester City left back, renowned for his powerful left foot during his time in England, fired a shot at goal which goalkeeper Loris Karius fumbled fortuitously onto the underside of the crossbar.
Karius, who has spent much of his Liverpool career playing second fiddle to Simon Mignolet, has regularly given his own teammates and fans similarly heart-stopping moments.
As the clocked ticked towards half an hour, Sadio Mane had two gilt-edged chances in the space of 49 seconds to give Liverpool the lead.
First, Firmino’s clever flick and pass was latched onto by Mane, whose exceptional first touch allowed him to get away from Federico Fazio, but the Senegalese blazed his finish high over Alisson’s crossbar.
Moments later, Roma’s high defensive line was again exposed, this time as Firmino got in down the right to square the ball for Mane, but again his shot went high into the stands.
It wasn’t long before Mane did finally have the ball in the net, prodding home Andy Robertson’s low cross, though this time he was met with the sight of the linesman’s, now fully functioning, flag.
That first Mane chance, though it wasn’t taken, felt like the watershed moment in the first half.
Wave after wave of red shirts began descending on Roma’s back line; every lunge increasingly desperate, every tackle increasingly last ditch.
It wasn’t long before Liverpool’s star man, Salah, got in on the act, cutting inside and curling a shot which was palmed away by Alisson at full stretch.
Roma naively didn’t heed that warning, again allowing Salah to cut inside onto that magical left foot.