Mohamed Salah, against his old club, and Roberto Firmino both scored twice but two late goals gave Roma faint hope.
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A Mohamed Salah-inspired Liverpool have one foot in the UEFA Champions League final after a dominant display against Roma, although two late goals gave the Italian side a glimmer of hope.
The Reds swept Manchester City aside in the first half of the quarter-final first leg but this time they were on the back foot early on, with Aleksandar Kolarov's thunderbolt flicked on to the bar by Loris Karius. At the other end Sadio Mané skied a glorious chance when put through by Roberto Firmino; moments later Salah showed the way, accepting the Brazilian's pass and cutting inside to curl a wonderful shot into the top corner.
Dejan Lovren then headed against the woodwork, but it was 2-0 before the break, Firmino again setting Salah clear and the Egyptian clipping beyond the advancing Alisson Becker. There was no escape for Roma 11 minutes after half-time either, Salah scampering down the right and squaring for Mané to roll in the third.
Liverpool continued to pile forward and were rewarded with a fourth as Salah skipped past Juan Jesus before crossing for Firmino to score. Then a rarity – a Liverpool goal not scored or assisted by Salah, James Milner's corner met by Firmino for 5-0.
Roma, remember, mounted a remarkable comeback at home in the previous round; Edin Džeko's composed finish initially looked like mere consolation but when Milner handled and Diego Perotti buried the penalty, Roma hopes were flickering again ahead of next week's return.
Key player: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
What more can you say about Salah? The Egyptian stung the palms of Alisson early on but Roma failed to heed the warning. His first goal was simply sublime but the clever chip over the visiting keeper to double Liverpool's advantage was no less magnificent. The former Roma man followed up his first-half masterclass with two superb second-half assists to put the Reds on the brink of a first final since 2007.
Reporter talking points
Matthew Howarth, Liverpool: Liverpool had one foot and both arms in the final but Roma – ruthlessly picked apart by their hosts for the best part of 80 minutes – came roaring back in the closing stages to give themselves a lifeline. The Giallorossi will have to produce another remarkable fightback at the Stadio Olimpico to get to Kyiv, but it is by no means beyond their capabilities. Just ask Barcelona.
Ben Gladwell, Roma: Roma's powers of recovery beggars belief. After overturning a 4-1 first-leg loss to eliminate Barcelona in the last round, they have garnered a degree of hope ahead of the second leg. Their defensive shortcomings certainly need to be addressed, but Eusebio Di Francesco's men will be encouraged by the fact that a repeat of their 3-0 win against Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico would take them to Kyiv. Can lightning strike twice?
Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool manager: "It's a perfect performance for pretty much 80 minutes. We made one defensive mistake, but that is the situation and now it is 5-2. Of course we would have been more happy with 5-0 or 5-1 but 5-2 is a fantastic result. We go there and try again. It is absolutely better than I thought before the game."
Eusebio Di Francesco, Roma coach: "We started well but lost our heads a bit. That reaction late on was very welcome, though, and we've got to believe in the comeback. The second leg isn't going to be a game like against Barcelona – it will be very hard, but we've got to believe in it and we want to give it all we've got to the end."
- Salah has 43 goals in all competitions this season, four short of Ian Rush's Liverpool record
- Milner has nine assists in the UEFA Champions League, a new season record
- Salah and Firmino both have ten goals in this season's UEFA Champions League
- Liverpool are only the second team after Barcelona in 2014/15 to have two players score ten in a UEFA Champions League season
- Džeko has scored in Roma's last four UEFA Champions League matches