Eleven years after their last attempt in Athens, Liverpool reached the Champions League final for the first time, advancing 7-6 on aggregate despite losing a dramatic second leg to AS Roma. The Merseysiders will travel to Kiev on May 27 in their thousands hoping the German can lead them to a sixth trophy in this storied competition.
Holding a 5-2 first-leg advantage from Anfield, Liverpool eased any early nerves when the Senegal international, Sadio Mane struck the opening goal of the game after nine minutes following a mistake by Radja Nainggolan. This was his ninth goal in the Champions League in just his 10th appearance, no player has scored more in their opening 10 games in the competition and it’s level with Harry Kane and Simone Inzaghi.
In 15 minutes, a very unfortunate James Milner scores own goal after a clearance from Dejan Lovren smashes into his face and deflects into the Liverpool goal and gifted AS Roma an equalizer and a route back into the semi-final.
Any hopes of a Roma comeback were dented by Georginio Wijnaldum in 25 minutes after the Dutch took advantage of poor Roma defending from Federico Fazio who failed to clear headed the corner and the ball fall to him with a simple header to secure Liverpool’s second goal of the night.
In the second half, Roma get a goal back in 52 minutes after Alexander-Arnold failed to stop El Shaarawy from getting past him on the left and forcing Karius to a save by only punch the ball straight out to Edin Dzeko, and the Serbian international fired in from close range to leveled it up.
Just as the hope seemed to have been sapped from the hosts, Radja Nainggolan fired Roma into the lead on the night with a long-range effort with four minutes to go. The Belgian midfielder then scored a penalty in the injury time after Trent Alexander-Arnold appears to prevent Stephan El Shaarawy from scoring a goal with his hand. Nainggolan’s goal put Roma within just one goal of forcing extra time but it turned out to be the final kick.
This win took free-scoring Liverpool’s goal tally to 130 this season in all competitions, which is their second-highest scoring season behind the 138 goals scored in the double-winning 1985/1986 campaign. With 13 goals over the two legs, this is the highest scoring Champions League semi-final ever, overtaking Monaco v Juventus (4-6) in 1998. While the Champions League final will be a repeat of the 1981 European Cup final, in which Liverpool beat Real Madrid 1-0.
(Photo source: Standard.co.uk)