Another stunning European night at Anfield saw Liverpool beat Roma 5-2 in their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg.
In the last round Barcelona would have left the Camp Nou after their first leg 4-1 win over Roma thinking the job was done. After 81 minutes Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp would have been looking at hotels in Kiev.
However, it was Liverpool’s night. The Reds produced an attacking masterclass, tearing apart the visitors’ defence time and time again. Chief tormentor was former Roma man Salah and it’s with the Egyptian that we start the five things we learned.
Salah is one of football’s biggest bargains
Salah was the focus of the pre-match talk and the Egyptian King of Anfield didn’t disappoint.
It was all smiles and brotherly love as he met with his former team-mates before the game, but once on the pitch, the No.11 was all business.
Mané had a couple of great chances, the crowd were buzzing and a goal seemed inevitable. Salah obliged.
For the second, it was the former Roma man who won the ball, linked up with Firmino and then applied the dinked finish.
His numbers are incredible; 43 in all competitions, ten in the Champions League and 12 in his last eight games.
In the second half he turned provider, setting up one each for Mané and Firmino, showing he is the complete package.
For 81 minutes, Liverpool had one foot in the Champions League final and they owe so much of it to their bargain buy. Now he just has to ruin Roma’s perfect home record next week.
High line from Roma a mistake
For 20 minutes Roma’s high line worked against the Reds, but once the home side got to grips with the Italian’s 3-4-2-1 system, they began to systematically tear it apart.
Per 90 minutes, Liverpool have three defenders who rank amongst the top 28 in terms of completing long balls in the Premier League. Two of them, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold, started and passes down the channels were Roma’s undoing.
With the away midfield taken out of the game, the visiting back three were exposed time and time again. Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco looked like a rabbit in headlights.
Liverpool’s back five racked up 20 accurate long balls, with the team completing 31 overall. With Roma set to try to take the game to the away side next week, this will be key to watch over in the Italian capital.
Fantastic Firmino on fire
At half-time, his stat line was impressive enough, with just 23 touches Firmino picked up two assists, had three shots on goal, completed two dribbles, made five key passes and won two tackles.
Salah grabs the headlines most games, but it’s the Brazilian who is the Reds’ workhorse, the man who sets the tone and the usually unheralded star.
Then, in the second half as the Reds went on to find the net three more times, the No.9 was at the heart of everything again.
Finishing from Salah’s pass, he then headed in a corner with 20 minutes to go, he got the goals he deserved and should receive all the plaudits.
His hard work – finishing the game with five shots, five key passes, four dribbles and three tackles – makes his impact every bit as important as his Egyptian team-mate.
Mixed night for Lovren
A combination of the impressive full-backs and midfield organisation helped protect the centre-backs.
However, it must be said, since the Dutchman turned up, Dejan Lovren has looked better and less of a liability.
But a Liverpool performance from the Croatian wouldn’t pass without a few negative marks.
Romelu Lukaku bossed him in the league recently and he wasn’t great against West Bromwich Albion, then, 5-0 up against the Italians, it happened.
Radja Nainggolan played a cross field pass looking for Dzeko, Lovren tried to attack the ball, mis-judged the flight, was caught under it and the Bosnian took a touch before finishing.
On Tuesday, his numbers stood out. Winning one tackle, he made three interceptions and seven clearances, but that mistake gives Roma the slightest glimmer of hope.
The most dangerous lead in football
You know what they say, 5-2 is the most dangerous lead in football. Well, actually, they don’t but they will leading up to the second leg.
Liverpool were cruising at 5-0 up and the Italians needed to score six at the Stadio Olimpico next week.
One flick of Dzeko’s boot and a glance of James Milner’s arm and it has all changed. Perotti’s penalty gives Roma hope.
Barcelona were 4-1 up before being blown away in the Italian capital. Klopp will need to heed those warnings. In this season’s Champions League, it’s never over till it’s over and Roma have yet to conceded at home in this competition.
With nine minutes to go, this tie was over. Now it’s brilliant poised and brimming with intrigue and excitement.