It was another unforgettable night at Anfield for the Reds in Europe. Two first half goals by who other than Mo Salah set Liverpool on their way before Roberto Firmino added a brace of his own alongside a neat finish from Sadio Mané in the second half. It was devastating stuff but there was to be an unlikely late push by Roma which saw them score a couple in the last ten minutes. What did we learn from this very entertaining semi final?
Mo Salah continues to impress me in ways I never thought possible. When I keep telling myself, he cannot surely get any better he is finding miraculous ways to make that happen…and I absolutely love it! For a player I honestly didn’t consider to be a great finisher, he is taking chances with a calmness and class that would make Fernando Torres or Robbie Fowler sit up and take notice. It is truly sensational to watch.
However, before I go on too much about the King of Egypt, I want to take a moment to discuss Roberto Firmino. Bobby is quietly having an incredible season of his own, one that can be compared to most in our history. He now has 27 goals in all competitions including an incredible 10 in the Champions League. That is not even to speak of his role in setting up goals for his teammates as well as his brilliant all around contributions. Firmino is so unique in what he can bring to a team. It is something else to behold.
What a joy it is to watch these two alongside Sadio Mané who might well be the most unpredictable of the group (in both the good and bad sense!). Arise Sir Bobby indeed.
On an almost weekly basis over the past few years, I have found myself giving Jordan Henderson credit for what he brings to the team. It is nice to now live in a time when everyone else finally seems to be noticing too. My time feeling like Butch Cassidy seems to have come to an end!
But our captain is most certainly not alone. James Milner has been equally supreme alongside him. Milner is playing some of the most brilliantly functional football I have yet witnessed. He does everything he needs to do, constantly makes the right decision, and keeps chipping in with assists.
A rare negative on the night was the seemingly serious injury to the in form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Cometh the hour, cometh the man though… Gini Wijnaldum has never looked better in a Red jersey as he did last night. He did not take a second to get into the flow of the game and often bamboozled his international colleague Kevin Strootman.
Radja Nainggolan was really the only Roma midfielder to emerge with any of his reputation still intact yesterday as our always unheralded trio out performed them in essentially every regard. It brings tears to my eyes to see them take on the best in Europe like this…
Depth Becoming A Concern
The elephant in the room must now be addressed. Our first eleven is purring along at incredible levels at the moment but we are rapidly running out of squad players who can fill in. There’s no Joel Matip, no Emre Can, no Adam Lallana, and now no Oxlade-Chamberlain.
With the team currently working so well together the impact off the bench isn’t as important as it often needs to be but this surely cannot last forever. Oh how I would love to have Danny Sturridge as an option late in these games. Perhaps it is time for Ben Woodburn to truly announce himself to the world?
We will see!
Tie Not Over
To me, it wasn’t even over at 5-0, let alone now at 5-2. Roma have clawed their way back to win in previous rounds so we will need to be fully focused next week to preserve the lead. The Italians have not yet conceded at home in this season’s tournament so it would be really nice if we could end that streak. It is now or never time!
This semi final remains firmly in the balance and in many ways it is probably better this way. With what happened between Roma and Barcelona in the last round, complacency and over confidence could never afford to be an issue and now we know for sure that it won’t be. A massive 90 minutes lies in wait next Wednesday.