Liverpool 5-2 Roma: Mo Salah scores twice in Champions League semi-final first leg
Last Updated: 25/04/18 6:10am
Mo Salah struck twice against his former club as Liverpool took command of their Champions League semi-final against Roma, despite late lapses in a 5-2 first-leg win on another memorable Anfield night.
The PFA's Player of the Year hit a stylish first-half double - taking his goal tally in a stunning season to 43 - before Sadio Mane (56) and Roberto Firmino (61, 69) scored to put a first Champions League final since 2007 firmly in sight.
Liverpool had been imperious in Jurgen Klopp's 150th game in charge but Edin Dzeko pounced with nine minutes remaining and Diego Perotti converted an 85th-minute penalty to shift the mood and give Roma unlikely hope.
Liverpool: Karius (6), Alexander-Arnold (8), Lovren (6), van Dijk (8), Robertson (7), Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Henderson (8), Milner (8), Salah (9), Firmino (8), Mane (7).
Subs used: Wijnaldum (7), Klavan (N/A), Ings, (6).
Roma: Alisson (6), Fazio (6), Manolas (5), Juan Jesus (5), Florenzi (6), De Rossi (6), Strootman (6), Kolarov (6), Cengiz (5), Nainggolan (6), Dzeko (7).
Subs used: Perotti (7), Schick (7), Gonalons (6).
Man of the match: Mo Salah
The Italians had completed an astonishing comeback to oust Barcelona in the quarter-finals and though they return to the Stadio Olimpico with some reward, an even more remarkable feat will be needed to deny the Premier League side - breathtaking in attack again - a shot at more European glory.
Eusebio Di Francesco had vowed his side would not sit back and Kevin Strootman, teed up by Dzeko, served an early warning, before Salah fired one of his own after cutting inside the visitors' strikingly high defensive line.
Firmino dragged wide from a tight angle, the linesman's call late as he scrambled with a broken flag, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drilled straight at Alisson, only to leave the field prematurely soon after with an apparent knee injury.
Five Liverpool changes saw Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Andrew Robertson, AlexOxlade-Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino return having been rested for the 2-2 draw at West Brom on Saturday.
Roma included former Manchester City players Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolorov in their side, and opted for Cengiz Under instead of Patrik Schick.
Roma settled as Liverpool reshuffled - Georgino Wijnaldum called into early action - and an Aleksandar Kolarov strike crashed against the goalframe via an unconvincing Loris Karius hand.
But space in behind stretched invitingly and by the half-hour mark, Liverpool were suddenly in the groove. Firmino twice set up Mane, who ballooned over with left and then right boot, and Salah was denied by Alisson before he finally delivered reward with a glorious effort that curled in off the underside of the crossbar (35).
Klopp pumped his fists in delight and though Dejan Lovren planted a header against the bar, a raucous Anfield revelled in a second in first-half stoppage-time when Salah latched onto Firmino's through-ball and dinked over the Roma goalkeeper.
Roma were ragged and the interval failed to check Liverpool's momentum as Klopp's men soon struck again. Trent Alexander-Arnold's long ball down the right flank looked harmless but Salah was too sharp, affording Mane a tap-in.
Red scarves swirled overhead as Roma legend Francesco Totti looked on with a grimace and the rampant hosts had a fourth on the hour when Salah delivered again, dropping a shoulder and squaring for Firmino to slot low.
Firmino rose highest to head home James Milner's corner as Klopp felt satisfied enough to take off Salah but Strootman rowed with a fuming Di Francesco.
Liverpool were swaggering towards the Kiev showpiece but the tie swung late to keep Roma alive. Dzeko slotted home his 21st goal of the season as Lovren dithered and when Milner was punished for handball moments later, Perotti kept cool to temper Anfield celebrations.
Man of the match - Mo Salah
Balance, movement, ruthless finishing and an enduring knack for the big moment - Salah starred again. Only Ian Rush - with 47 goals in 1983/84 - has scored more in a single season for Liverpool, but with two assists as well as two more goals, this was an all-round stellar display.
- Liverpool are only the second side in Champions League history to score five goals in a semi-final game (also Ajax in 1995, 5-2 v Bayern Munich).
- Liverpool are the first side in Champions League history to see three players score 8+ goals in a single season in the competition (Salah 10, Firmino 10, Mane 8).
- Salah has netted 10 goals in the Champions League this season, the most by a Liverpool player in a single season in European competition ever.
- Salah has scored in each of his last five Champions League starts for Liverpool, something only Steven Gerrard had previously done (Steven Gerrard between October 2007 and February 2008).
Liverpool are back in Premier League action at home to Stoke on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League, but focus will remain firmly on Wednesday's deciding leg as their seek to book their place in a first Champions League final for more than 10 years.