That was one hell of a game at Anfield. In a night that would surely be remembered in Liverpool’s illustrious European history, the Reds dazed Roma and made them feel sorry, however still presenting a glimmer of hope to the Serie A side with two away goals conceded in the last 10 minutes.
The stakes were high on Klopp’s 150th game in charge and once again, Mohamed Salah kept everyone on their feet as Liverpool produced an attacking masterclass to win 5-2. Of course, the Reds were 5 goals up within one hour.
As sweet as it might be, the sour taste however was a horrible injury to Alex Oxlade Chamberlain whose World Cup aspirations now appear in danger and the faith of a 53-year-old fan left in critical condition after bloody altercations involving fans of both clubs before kickoff.
Here are five lessons from another famous night at Anfield.
Salah the difference between Liverpool and Roma
Before kick-off, Mohamed Salah was hugging his old friends and teammates passionately in the tunnel. Few minutes later on the pitch, he showed them no mercy as he tormented their backline and gave everyone on the Roma bench some palpitation. There’s no love lost, but they surely must have seen first hand what they are missing with the Egyptian and Eusebio Di Francesco was probably learning of a better way to deploy the little Pharaoh.
It took him and Liverpool over half an hour but as the central figure, Salah fired in a spectacular goal to give Liverpool the lead and added the second with an ice-cool finish on the stroke of halftime.
He wasn’t done yet, Salah returned in the second half and helped Firmino and Mane get on the score sheet. He made his trademark dazzling run pass Juan Jesus and his pass across the face of goal was turned in by the other two figures of the most potent front line in Europe. Take two with the left and give two with the right, it’s as easy as that for the Egyptian King.
The last thing Roma would get from him was the respect of not celebrating his goals against them.
Hot and Cold Mane
Mane on his day is devastating. Yes, against the opponents and even at the expense of Liverpool. A season ago, the Senegalese was the leader of the amoury, but after his stellar performance which earned him the August player of the month in the Premier League, Mane had switched to a mere accomplice.
He’s definitely had his moments this season and he’s still as deadly as ever. What could be worrisome however is the hit and miss attitude that has characterized his game for a long time. Controlling a long pass isn’t even a lightweight for him these days; if he doesn’t make a horrible first touch, he would lose possession cheaply which could be dangerous for the team.
The best opportunity fell for him before Liverpool’s eventual opener but he lashed on to the ball waywardly and the Kopp couldn’t believe it. With the current form of the team, it’s hard to think Mane is under performing but on his own, it’s been an indifferent season. It’s ironical.
Liverpool’s heat difficult to survive
You have to love the reds for one thing; when they go all out on their opponents they give their fans ecstasy and every other person who cared to buy a ticket, a value for their money. It’s pure entertainment and purpose at the same time.
The Anfield atmosphere made a lot of impact as well. From the Kop end to the Kenny Dalglish stand, the Kops were packed, waving their banners and echoing the Liverpool anthem and Roma could hear it from their dressing room. You can’t blame these fans, they’ve waited a decade for this moment and they have to savour every taste of it.
As Liverpool settled slowly and started keeping the ball after the 25th minute, it was hard to imagine that Roma would survive the pressure, particularly the tenacity of Henderson and Milner; the intelligence of Firminho; the pace and calmness of Salah plus Mane’s acute running.
Roma reaped the rewards of bravery
Even in the middle of their horrible nightmare at Anfield, no thanks to their former player, AS Roma went toe-to-toe with Liverpool and it was near perfect. True to the words of Eusebio Di Francesco, Roma didn’t park the bus and made the opening 20 minutes of the game frenetic. They pressed up field and literally soaked in the Anfield noise.
While they moved in that flow, Kevin Strootman forced the first save of the night from Loris Karius and Alexander Kolarov’s piledriver caught Karius off-guard as the woodwork spared the blushes of the goalkeeper in front of the Kop.
Roma’s approach paid off eventually, getting two vital away goals as credit. Even Manchester City couldn’t do that. They might have been mauled but they didn’t go home empty handed.
All to play for in Rome
Despite the scoreline from Tuesday night, the return leg to come up next Wednesday in the eternal city of Rome is as poised as ever.
Roma showed the world against Barcelona that a 3 goal deficit is nothing impossible to overturn. Moreover, they have an advantage of two away goals which means they could win 3-0 or 4-1 in the replay and still qualify.
On the flip side, never in the history of Liverpool have they thrown away a three goal lead from the first leg of a Champions League tie. And who can bet against the reds not to score in Rome?
Roma are yet to concede at home in this season’s Champions League but they yet to play against Liverpool’s front three at their backyard.
Liverpool better be prepared for a hostile reception and the fans must be careful to avoid another bloody altercation.
The pendulum is swinging the way of the Italians now but there’s so much work to do. If Liverpool too must qualify, they have to do what Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona could not do.