We are in a Champions League final. I can’t quite believe it.
Liverpool booked their place in the 2018 Champions League final on Wednesday evening in the Stadio Olympico in Rome. The actual match finished 4-2 to the Italian side but the result didn’t tell nearly the whole story of the night and the tie in general. Goals from Sadio Mane and Georgino Wijnaldum (AWAY FROM HOME!!) were enough to put the Reds through to their first Champions League final since 2007.
I don’t think there has been a time supporting Liverpool (that I can easily remember) when I have been as nervous as I was about last night’s game. There were so many ways this could go horrendously wrong. We’ve seen it before. Not going to lie I was terrified we’d see it again.
The team was as expected with Gini Wijnaldum replacing injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the first leg at Anfield. Roma, unfortunately, had learned from their first leg shambles and gone with 4 at the back.
We needed an early away goal. And we got it when Radja Nainggolan passed it straight to Roberto Firmino who took the ball forward and played in Sadio Mane and the Senegalese winger finished comfortably past Allison in goal. There seemed to be a collective sigh of relief through the Liverpool grapevine. All we had to do was score another and I’d be able to partially relax.
We did score another.
At the wrong end though. Poor James. Dejan Lovren cleared it and it came straight back in off of poor James Milner’s face. It was kind of funny. I laughed a bit. But it was annoying at the same time. Hopefully this wasn’t an indicator of things to come. 1-1.
The second away goal that I (and many other Liverpool fans) desperately wanted came in the 25th minute as a corner that had been cleared into the air by Roma came back into the danger area where Wijnaldum was ready to nod the ball past Allison. It was Gini’s first away goal for Liverpool and first for anyone in 3 years (!). It couldn’t have come at a better time. Away goals cancelled out. I relaxed somewhat. 2-1 to Liverpool. Calm.
I don’t know if it’s worth going in to too much detail about what happened after that. Trent Alexander-Arnold at right back had a fairly torrid time and it was his mistake, losing his man, that lead to Roma’s 2nd goal from Edin Dzeko who picked up the rebound from Loris Karius’ save and slotted past the German for 2-2. 85th minute the ball came to Nainggolan 25 yards out and he thundered it towards the bottom left corner. Karius must have thought it was going wide because he didn’t dive but the ball hit the post and went in for 3-2 with 5 minutes plus added time remaining. Getting close.
93rd minute Roma were awarded a penalty which probably wasn’t however they had two pretty clear penalties denied earlier in the match for a Trent handball and a Karius trip so it probably cancelled out. Nainggolan scored the penalty to make it 4-2 and meaning Roma only needed one more goal to take it to extra time….
…but they didn’t get a chance as the referee blew instantly after the restart and the Reds were through!! Champions League final 2018!! Versus Real Madrid!! Who would have truly believed this would happen at the start of the season when we were worried about getting past Hoffenheim in the qualifying round. A huge achievement for everyone connected with the club.
I’m not saying we’re going to win it because Madrid always seem to pull a performance from somewhere in a Champions League final but to even have the chance to try is a bit of a miracle and an indicator of how far we’ve come. I still want top 4 wrapped up which means winning against Chelsea or Brighton, just win both please Liverpool. Top 4 and a Champions League final would probably be a successful season in my eyes. Get it done Reds, will be missing the Chelsea game but should be back for Brighton, see you then Redmen!!