UEFA Champions League – Roma-Liverpool – Liverpool repel Roma fightback to make final
Liverpool survived a Roma onslaught in the Stadio Olimpico to reach an eighth European Cup final after a tie that equalled the record for the most goals in a two-legged UEFA Champions League contest.
Trailing 5-2 after the game on Merseyside, Roma’s hopes of mounting another remarkable comeback suffered a knock within nine minutes as Radja Nainggolan’s pass was cut out by Roberto Firmino, and the Brazilian slid through for Sadio Mané to shoot past Alisson Becker.
Within six minutes Roma were revived in bizarre circumstances, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s clearance ricocheting off James Milner and back past Loris Karius to leave the Giallorossi needing three goals once more. Although Alisson denied Mané with his feet, that became four in the 25th minute, Edin Džeko heading a corner into the path of Georginio Wijnaldum, who nodded his first UEFA Champions League goal.
Milner nearly inadvertently helped Roma back into it again as he got in the way of Stephan El Shaarawy’s effort, the ball spinning away from Karius and against the left-hand post. The goalkeeper was called into action again early in the second half, pushing away El Shaarawy’s shot only as far as Džeko, who buried the rebound.
Substitute Cengiz Ünder, El Shaarawy and Džeko again all went close as Roma pressed, while it took a smart Alisson stop to prevent Firmino restoring Liverpool’s lead on the night. With four minutes left Nainggolan found the net from range via a post, and then smashed in a penalty in the final seconds after Ragnar Klavan had been penalised, but time ran out for Roma.
Key player: Edin Džeko (Roma)
His goals have fuelled Roma’s pursuit of a dream trip to Kyiv and it seemed only right that he scored again on this, the Giallorossi’s final night in Europe this season. The Bosnian has scored in five straight #UCL games and while this goal was not as valuable as his others, it still showed his class as one of Europe’s top predators, underlined time and time again this season.
Reporter talking points
Ben Gladwell, Roma: Roma will have no regrets about tonight, but that blackout at Anfield will be on their minds. Had a few breaks gone their way we could have been talking about another miracle here, but they left themselves too big a mountain to climb after the first leg and, this time, Di Francesco’s men could not quite scale it. They will be proud of the win on the night; now the focus turns to ensuring they qualify for the #UCL again next season and then, who knows, go a step further.
Matthew Howarth, Liverpool: The visitors came under intense pressure in the second half but their two away goals before the interval left the hosts with too much to do. It’s been a remarkable UEFA Champions League campaign for Klopp’s side, whatever happens in Kyiv on 26 May, but this team will fancy their chances of beating serial winners Real Madrid in the Ukrainian capital.
Eusebio Di Francesco, Roma coach: “The lads have done something extraordinary and I can assure you it’s not easy for players, after gifting two goals to go 2-1 down, to come back. It was almost a perfect game. This has go to convince us that we can compete at these levels.”
Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool manager: “It was the first semi-final for most of the boys – it’s completely normal that you have to keep your nerve in situations like this. We deserve it 100%. It’s right that we lost the game tonight, but Real needed luck last night and against Juve in the last round. We have two weeks to prepare for the final. Let’s go there and try our best.”
- 13 goals in the tie equals the #UCL record: Bayern 12-1 Sporting in 2008/09
- Liverpool’s third #UCL final, and first since 2007
- Reds lost last unbeaten record in this season’s competition
- Klopp’s side havescored 40 goals in 2017/18 #UCL
- Mané has nine goals in his last eight #UCL appearances
- Nainggolan scored his first #UCL goals in his 24th outing
- Džeko has now scored in five successive #UCL matches