Liverpool have one foot in the Champions League final after steamrollering an insipid Roma 5-2 on Tuesday night.
The goals barely stopped on a rainy evening at Anfield as Jurgen Klopp’s men roared into a first-half lead courtesy of two goals from Mohamed Salah.
Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino added further strikes but a late salvo from Roma preserves an interest in the second leg.
The visitors can count themselves lucky after a horrible performance threatened to undo their miracle comeback against Barcelona in last round.
In a game that did little for hypertension, here are five things we learned.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has burned through a marvellous year at Anfield, so it was a shame to see him struck down with a knee injury inside the first twenty minutes. His replacement, however, came on and immediately changed the game for Jurgen Klopp.
Gini Wijnaldum has performed a deeper role in recent weeks but James Milner's display against Manchester City in the previous round meant he was a no-brainer to start on Tuesday.
The Dutchman was, therefore, consigned to the bench. He did, though, excel when he came on after 18 minutes, breaking free of the Roman press on several occasions to set up dangerous attacks.
He should have scored in the second half but he did his hopes of a starting place in the return leg no harm at all.
2 Eusebio gets it wrong
Eusebio Di Francesco got his tactics all wrong with a kamikaze 3-4-2-1 that played right into the hands of Liverpool’s attacking stars.
Time and again, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman were bypassed by harmless lofted balls from deep, as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané were gifted with countless chances to attack a Roma defence that was suicidally advanced.
Di Francesco’s mistake, however, was compounded by a lack of intervention as Liverpool ran away with proceedings.
Even his own players interceded, pleading for instructions from the bench as the hosts tore into a five-goal lead. For too long, their calls went unanswered.
3 Dodgy Dejan
Dejan Lovren has done much to rehabilitate his career after a horrible twelve months.
The Croatian had looked relatively assured in recent weeks but he was at fault for Edin Dzeko’s opportunistic finish late on in the second half, misjudging a floated ball to allow the Roma man to finish into Karius’ near post.
Just when Klopp needed him to focus, he lost his concentration.
It may be the case that it is not simply Liverpool who will lose out with such slips: Lovren himself could well find himself out of the team come summer.
4 Diego keeps it alive
Diego Perotti has been one of the more consistent performers in Roma’s season, so it was a surprise to see him on the bench for Tuesday night’s game.
After James Milner handballed in the box, the Argentine summoned his icy nerve to sew a tidy penalty into Loris Karius’ top corner.
The goal keeps Roma’s faint hopes burning until the second leg but Perotti and his teammates will know that a similar performance will be unacceptable at the Stadio Olimpico. For now, they’re still in it.
5 Kings of the Kop strike again in Europe
Between them, Liverpool’s front three have scored 28 goals in the Champions League this season. That is equivalent to the cumulative totals offered by Barcelona, Monaco and Atlético Madrid in the competition this year.
What’s more, it could have been even higher. As Roma’s defence vanished under pressure, Mohamed Salah should probably have doubled his two-goal tally.
As it stands, the Egyptian remains just four goals away from Ian Rush’s record total of 47. Few would bet against him smashing it before season’s end.
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