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Champions League Classics: Roma 4-2 Liverpool

Read this then watch a frenzied 2017/18 semi-final decider on UEFA.tv from.

The Times called the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League last-four decider between Roma and Liverpool "a semi-final to give defensive coaches sleepless nights and attacking aficionados sweet dreams". See why.

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Context

Semi-final first-leg highlights: Liverpool 5-2 Roma
Semi-final first-leg highlights: Liverpool 5-2 Roma

Roma trailed 5-0 in the first leg before striking twice in the closing stages, and were optimistic that they could rally in the second leg, having overturned a 4-1 loss at Barcelona with a 3-0 home win in the previous round. Coach Eusebio Di Francesco urged his side "to perform another miracle" while Liverpool – unbeaten all season in the UEFA Champions League under Jürgen Klopp, and with ex-Roma star Mohamed Salah in top form – only had to avoid buckling under pressure: not necessarily an easy task.

Key players

Radja Nainggolan: A man of many midfield talents, the speedy, aggressive Belgian had only one thing missing from his UEFA Champions League armoury: goals. In 23 games in the competition, he had yet to score.

Sadio Mané: Ex-Roma striker Mohamed Salah was the star of Liverpool's season, but Mané's contribution was as immense – he came to Rome having hit eight in his previous seven UEFA Champions League games.

Watch five goals from Edin Džeko
Watch five goals from Edin Džeko

Edin Džeko: Having scored regularly in the Bundesliga and Premier League, the powerful Bosnian striker, 32, was proving his class in Serie A with Roma, and had scored in his last four UEFA Champions League games.

What happened

Within nine minutes, Roberto Firmino set up Sadio Mané to make it 1-0 to the visitors, but a bizarre own goal – Trent Alexander-Arnold's clearance ricocheting off James Milner and past Loris Karius – levelled things up. Georginio Wijnaldum then headed his first UEFA Champions League goal to make it 2-1 midway through the first half, though Edin Džeko tidied up a rebound to make it 2-2 early in the second half.

Substitute Cengiz Ünder, Stephan El Shaarawy and Džeko again all went close as Roma pressed, and with four minutes left Radja 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. However, time ran out for Roma – who needed one more goal to force extra time.

Reaction

Klopp: It's just amazing
Klopp: It's just amazing

Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool coach: "It was a little bit exciting – more exciting than I actually wanted. It was the first time we were not really as good as we can be, so we needed luck and that's what we had. I think it was deserved, but it would have been deserved for Roma too."

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."

Jordan Henderson, Liverpool midfielder: "We never do it the easy way."

Elsewhere that night

Real Madrid booked their place in the final in Kyiv the night before the Roma-Liverpool game. The only other UEFA matches on 2 May 2018 were in an Under-16 development tournament: Belarus won 3-0 against Kazakhstan, while Georgia prevailed 2-1 against Romania.

Aftermath

Liverpool v Tottenham: The full story of the 2019 final
Liverpool v Tottenham: The full story of the 2019 final

Liverpool's first UEFA Champions League final since 2007 ended up being a disappointment, goalkeeping errors contributing to a 3-1 loss against Real Madrid. Undeterred, Jürgen Klopp's side reached the 2019 decider (after signing Roma No1 Alisson Becker) and this time made no mistake, beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Madrid.

The Curva Sud rose to show Roma their appreciation on the night of the Liverpool game, while players expressed their determination to return to the competition the following season – something they achieved with a third-placed Serie A finish. However, Eusebio Di Francesco left the club in March 2019, shortly after his side's round of 16 exit to Porto in the UEFA Champions League.

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