Liverpool made it difficult for themselves on the night, but ensured a 7-6 aggregate semi-final win over Roma to reach the Champions League final.
Roma 4-2 Liverpool (6-7 agg.)
Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg, Stadio Olimpico
May 2, 2018
Mane 9′ (assist – Firmino)
Milner OG 15′
Wijnaldum 25′ (assist – Dzeko)
Dzeko 52′ (assist – El Shaarawy)
Nainggolan 86′ (assist – Kolarov)
Nainggolan pen 90+3′
At the start of a season that saw the Reds drawn against Hoffenheim in a qualification playoff, few could have predicted Jurgen Klopp‘s side being 90 minutes away from the Champions League final holding a three-goal lead.
But after a remarkable campaign that led to a 5-2 win over Roma at Anfield, Liverpool needed to produce another strong performance to make it to Kiev.
They took on an Italian outfit hoping for another miracle, after coming back from 4-1 down to beat Barcelona in the quarter-finals, hammering home the need for focus from the visitors.
With Real Madrid awaiting in the final, Liverpool’s sights were set on a sixth European Cup, and though they played out a fierce tie they ensured that with two more goals.
- Klopp makes another four changes for European decider
- Mane opens scoring with early strike but Milner own goal levels
- Wijnaldum restores lead with first away goal since England move
- Dzeko nets shortly after break to restore faint Roma hopes
- Late Nainggolan double reduces deficit
- Reds to take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final
As expected, Roma mounted an early offence as they chased down a three-goal deficit, with Edin Dzeko particularly troublesome in the final third, while Alessandro Florenzi flashed wide from range.
The Reds looked to soak up the pressure and break whenever possible, and they found their opening within nine minutes, as Radja Nainggolan’s loose pass played Roberto Firmino in.
With the Brazilian advancing, he threaded the ball through for Mane who, after two wasted chances in the first half of the first leg didn’t hesitate, converting with a calm finish.
Unfortunately the visitors conceded shortly after, with Stephan El Shaarawy beating a slack Trent Alexander-Arnold in the air at the far post and the eventual clearance rebounding in off James Milner.
Mane almost restored the lead after a brilliant run down the left-back from Andy Robertson, but Liverpool had to wait mere seconds later as Georginio Wijnaldum headed a loose ball home for the first away goal since moving to England.
Despite heading into half-time in a comfortable position, Liverpool emerged after the break rattled, in particular Loris Karius.
The German brought down Dzeko in the penalty area only for the striker to be wrongly ruled out for offside, before he palmed a shot back into Dzeko’s path to fire home for 2-2 on the night.
Chaos continued to reign as substitute Cengiz Under forced a close-range save from Karius before El Shaarawy’s far-post effort brought a contentious block from Alexander-Arnold, who continued to struggle.
With few strong options on the bench, Klopp refrained from making changes until the 83rd minute, with Ragnar Klavan coming on for Mane to provide more stability.
A switch to five at the back did little to change Liverpool’s defensive hopes, however, with Nainggolan firing a stunning effort into the bottom corner to reduce the deficit.
And the Belgian brought it to 7-6 on aggregate after Klavan’s handball was awarded as a penalty, with the game going down to the wire.
But it proved to be futile, with the Reds’ excellent first-half blitz enough to see them through to the Champions League final for the first time in 11 years.
TIA Man of the Match: Sadio Mane
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)