If blowing out Manchester City in the first-leg of the quarter-final was a statement, this was equal to it. Liverpool were in a rampant mood for 80 minutes, picking AS Roma apart piece by piece to win 5-2 and take a huge step towards Kiev.
Referred to as the ‘Mo Salah’ Derby prior to kick-off, this was yet another ninety minutes of scintillating football dominated by the newly named PFA Player of the Year. In one of the most comprehensive performances seen all season, the Egyptian took Liverpool to new heights while putting in a pretty strong case for Ballon D’or.
Jurgen Klopp’s side started in their usual frantic fashion, pressing and harrying Roma much to the delight of the Anfield crowd. An unusually high line from the Italians gifted Sadio Mané two glorious chances to set the ball rolling, but the winger couldn’t keep his composure to capitalise on Liverpool’s dominant start.
Up steps Mo Salah.
We’ve seen some truly special goals from the Egyptian this season, with the forward displaying the multitude of skills in his repertoire. There’s been headers, volleys, tap ins, intricate team moves, pretty much every type of goal, but nothing could top this.
Unleashing a curling shot on the edge of the area, Salah’s strike couldn’t have been closer to the top corner; an exquisite shot that confirmed why his Premier League peers had voted him player of the season. A ninth in the Champions League, but by no means his last.
Mo Salah’s first goal of the night! He just gets better and better pic.twitter.com/ew1bbZT8VA
— Liverpool News Updates (@LFCGOSSIPS) April 24, 2018
Liverpool doubled their tally before the half-time interval, with Roberto Firmino acting as the mastermind behind another ice-cold piece of brilliance from Salah. A goal of the very highest order, this was another stroke of Messi genius as he lofted the ball over the on-rushing Allison and into the net. Deft but deadly, Mo Salah had made his mark on Europe once more.
— Football Addict (@FootballAdictt) April 24, 2018
The goal saw him become the first Liverpool player ever to score ten goals in a single European campaign.
Roma tried their very best to regroup at half time, but Liverpool just kept on coming. Salah turned provider this time, drilling a low cross into the area that picked out Mané for a much deserved third goal.
Of course, with Barcelona having capitulated from 3-0 down in the previous round, tension remained in the air. The Reds simply soured further though, adding two further goals through Roberto Firmino. A neat interchange between Trent Alexander-Arnold and Salah saw the latter cross into a dangerous area, with Firmino on hand to steer into the net with ease as Liverpool sent out a strong message to Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. His header underlined the gulf in class between the two sides as Roma were left bewildered by the Anfield storm.
It was nothing less than the Brazilian deserved either, having acted as the talisman to Mohamed Salah’s show. Extending his goals tally further, this was another performance reflective of Firmino’s importance to Klopp’s system; relentless in his defensive work, his creative mind was at centre stage as he became the fourth highest player in terms of assists in a Champions League campaign (7) behind James Milner (9), Rooney in 13/14 (8) and Neymar in 16/17 (8).
80 minutes of sheer brilliance from Liverpool, indicative of the monumental strides that have been made under Jurgen Klopp’s tutelage.
Then came 10 minutes of mayhem.
The very best of Liverpool in an attacking sense was undone by some hugely culpable defending as AS Roma were gifted a glimmer of hope for the second-leg. First, Eden Dzeko, who had very much been on the periphery thanks to a brilliant defensive performance from Lovren and Van Dijk, got a valuable away goal for the Italians. Having produced the goods on the big stage for the second consecutive Champions League game, Lovren returned to usual habits, misjudging the flight of Nainggolan’s ball which saw Eden Dzeko pull one back – the seventh goal he’s been involved in during Roma’s last nine away games in the competition (6 goals, 1 assist).
We should’ve known a game without any controversial refereeing decisions was too good to be true. A handball by Milner saw Perotti score Roma’s second from the spot, reducing the decibels of a previously rampant Anfield crowd until the final whistle. It was one of the harshest handball decisions I’ve seen and Milner, who delivered another top drawer display, can feel very hard done by.
Two needless goals conceded aside, this was another strong statement from Liverpool. Of course there will be natural frustration having surrendered a 5 goal lead; a score-line in which Liverpool really should’ve been home and dry. Yet, Liverpool have only failed to score in the Merseyside Derby and the second-leg against Porto since January. Stopping their deadly trio is extremely hard.
Make no mistake, this is a very, very healthy first-leg result for The Reds.