It was the same old story for Liverpool in their Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.
The Reds reeled off five goals in just under 35 minutes an looked like the best team in the world. Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino tallied two goals each while Sadio Mane scored once. Yet for all of Liverpool’s dominance, the team’s defence nearly capitulated in the final 10 minutes.
With Salah looking on from the bench – replaced by an ineffective Danny Ings – Liverpool went from aggressor to a passive participant in the match. For as bad as Roma were for a large chunk of the game, the team finished with a flurry as Edin Dzeko tallied a goal in the 81st minute.
Just four minutes later, a James Milner handball gave Roma the chance to add another from the penalty spot. Roma’s Diego Perrotti expertly add a second, and the Italians finished the match with more momentum going into the second leg.
Roma may be down 5-2 in the aggregate series, but the Giallorossi proved just how strong of a team they are at home this term in the last round.
Needing at least three goals against the highly fancied Barcelona, Roma scored a treble without conceding to qualify for the semifinals. The Romans haven’t conceded a goal in the Champions League at the Stadio Olimpico, and Liverpool must be wary of giving up a three-goal lead heading into the second leg.
As the Liverpool players walked off the Anfield pitch on Tuesday night, the result almost felt like a loss. Sure, the Reds picked up a 5-2 victory, but allowing Roma to score twice in the final 10 minutes continues to show the Reds are faulty in defence.
Dejan Lovren’s poor decision making allowed Dzeko to score the Giallorossi’s first goal, but it wasn’t just the Croatian’s poor defending that let Roma back into the game.
Sensing victory and five goals to the good, Jurgen Klopp removed Salah from the match. The team’s leading goal scorer has been the catalyst to everything positive Liverpool have done this term.
However, with him on the bench, Liverpool have shown a vulnerability that is absent when Salah is on the pitch. It is no coincidence that Liverpool’s lacklustre effort on Tuesday began when Salah was removed in the 75th minute. From that point on, Roma were the dominant team and their two away goals could prove vital in the second leg.
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Tactically, Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco must sort out his defence for next Wednesday’s return leg. The team’s back four played with a high line that Liverpool exploited for much of the 90 minutes.
In the opening half an hour, Roma’s tactics did give Liverpool a difficult time as the Giallorossi controlled possession and Aleksandar Kolarov struck the woodwork. However, Roma’s midfield suddenly looked tired from exerting energy in those 30 minutes; and quick as a flash, Liverpool were attacking them repeatedly.
Roma have it all to do in the second leg. Yet, the prospect of needing to score just three goals rather than five seems far more possible. Liverpool let Roma off the hook and Klopp’s team is in a precarious situation.
They may have won the first leg, but the Reds left the door open for Roma to make a comeback next Wednesday at the Stadio Olimpico.
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