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Mo Salah produced one of the all time great European performances to put Liverpool within touching distance of the Champions’ League final.
But a unlikely, improbable comeback from Roma as they scored two late goals has left the Italians dreaming of another impossible result in the eternal city next week.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s men know that the same stunning 3-0 win they miraculously earned against Barca in the previous round will put them through the final, despite being left out for the count on another amazing Champions’ League night.
If Roma’s fight-back took the gloss over what was until the last 10 minutes one of Liverpool finest-ever European nights, then it should not detract from Salah’s masterpiece.
Not content with his one man assault on the English goal-scoring records, the Egyptian King is not set about world domination after this stunning display posted notice to Messi and Ronaldo he is coming after them.
The forward took his season’s tally to an astonishing 43 goals with two breath-taking first half finishes, and then he proved he is far more than a goal-mouth poacher, with an unselfish vision to gift goals for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino after the break.
When Firmino added a fifth from a corner with a stunning header, it left hapless Roma out for the count on the Anfield turf, and Liverpool considering an eighth European Cup final.
But just as Reds fans were booking their flights to Kiev, events again conspired to leave Liverpool fearing the return leg on Rome next week, as Edin Dzeko pulled one back with a cool finish nine minutes from time.
And then referee Felix Brych – no stranger to controversy, gave another hugely debatable decision when he awarded a penalty for handball against James Milner with five minutes remaining.
It was harsh in the extreme with the ball seeming to strike the midfielder from close range, but sub Diego Perotti’s finish from the spot gives Roma something to fight for in the second leg.
Salah though, will be confident of scoring again in Rome to finish the job, as his former team-mates looked fearful of his every move, after a world class display.
Here’s how the players rated…
Early nerves saw him almost make a big error, but settled into game
Booked. Great composure down the right, and wonderful energy
Such power and aggression, and brought ball out with control as well
Van Dijk 8
Looked to be relishing this stage, and is one of Europe’s best defenders
Come a long way from Queens Park, and his delivery a real weapon
Cruel blow to pick up injury just 15 minutes into game, stretchered off
Led by example in the middle, and fought like a demon for his men
Just a machine. Defys gravity never mind age, incredible again here
MOTM. There is officially nothing more to say about Mo – he is a genius, full stop
Movement and vision were a key to create space for Salah to explode
Missed a couple but showed immense courage to stay in game and score
Wijnaldum 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 18)
Alisson 6; Fazio 4, Manolos 5, Jesus 3(Perotti 67,5), Florenzi 4; Di Rossi 4 (Gonalons67, 5), Strootman 4, Kolarov 5, Under 4 (Schick 46,6), Nainggolan 5; Dzeko 5Schick 6 (Under 46) Perotti 6
Ref: Felix Brych (Ger) Att: 54,765
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