Jurgen Klopp called it “all-inclusive football”, or in other words a night when Anfield witnessed the demolition of Roma followed by what they hope was not a chilling sequel, that being the start of another momentous comeback when these two clubs reconvene for the second leg next Wednesday.
This is already a remarkable Champions League semi-final and quite how Roma still have a faint chance for the second leg is hard to understand when Eusebio Di Francesco’s players mostly looked a team with the wrong tactics, against the wrong opponents on the wrong night. At five goals down they had been cut to pieces by one man in particular, the footballer who may yet turn out to be the outstanding individual in this Champions League season and many more to come.
Mohamed Salah bewitched Roma with two goals and two assists, and for the bits that even he might consider impossible, there was an away defence willing to wave the 43-goal attacker through the gaps. Others have defended Salah with their lives, because that is the only way to play against him, but his former club left him under the responsibility of the Brazilian defender Juan Jesus who by the end needed saving from himself.
By the time Salah was substituted, Liverpool had long since smelled blood and been clinical with the chances they had created - two further goals for Roberto Firmino and one for Sadio Mane, and a place in the final in Kiev on May 26 looked inevitable. Kevin Strootman approached his bench and seemed to be asking Di Francesco in bald terms what the hell his manager thought he was doing and given that Roma were trying to stop Salah with Jesus and a prayer that seemed a fair question.
JJ • 27 mins
Salah walked off the pitch at 75 minutes, having acknowledged his own contribution with the humility of a man who clearly felt that he had wrought more than enough pain on former friends without ostentatious goal celebrations. Perhaps he took with him the aura of Liverpool’s invincibility or perhaps Klopp’s team were always destined to tire at the end of a tie that they controlled on 75 minutes.
The ball that Radja Nainggolan clipped over the head of Dejan Lovren for Edin Dzeko to chest down and score was, Klopp said, one of those things that can happen on nights like these in spite of what he regarded as a brilliant performance from his Croatian. The penalty that referee Felix Brych awarded for James Milner’s handball was the wrong decision, Klopp said, but the substitute Diego Perotti buried his penalty with rather more confidence than those Roma players of in the 1984 final.
Klopp said that he found it hard to let his mood fly too high although that was nothing to do with Roma’s two goals, and rather more to do with the fact that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was carried off on a stretcher in the first half with what is expected to be a serious injury to his right knee. It seems not a question of whether he will be at the World Cup finals but whether he will even be back in time for next season.
A cruel blow for the young Englishman who has done so well to establish himself in Gareth Southgate’s plans, not to mention this great ending that Liverpool’s season is promising. The second leg alone is set up to be one of the classics with Roma trailing Liverpool by three goals, the same margin from which they reeled in Barcelona in the previous round. Klopp pointed out that this Liverpool team are not Barcelona, “who won it all” and was eager to emphasise that the appetite not to mess this up burns stronger than usual.
It was a commanding result but it could have been so much better after a first half which Roma started positively, clearly in a mind to score a goal and coming very close to doing so. Later their manager Di Francesco would seek to blame the lapses in the second half on his players failing “to win their duels” as if mindful that his own tactics were likely to be identified as the chief reason why they were so out of their depth.
They had the first major chance, a shot from the former Manchester City man Aleksandar Kolarov who struck a left-footed drive on 18 minutes that Loris Karius seemed to lose mid-flight and only managed to push onto his own bar – and then at last Salah took over.
Mane had three sights of goal in the first half, from which he missed the first two and then scored the third, having strayed offside in the build-up. The first two came within a minute of one another and when the second was also dispatched over the bar there was chastisement in the groan from the home fans which Klopp immediately picked up on. He turned to them and demanded they encourage the team.
At the centre of those two chances was the excellent Firmino with that magnetic touch of his and he would be key in setting up Salah’s second. In the 36th minute, Salah was inside the box on the right side again with enough space to pick his spot, striking such a good shot that goalkeeper Alisson was nowhere near it. For his second, Salah guided the ball into the path of Firmino, the Brazilian holding off Kostas Manolas and freeing his team-mate Salah to run clear and lift a shot over Alisson that bounced delicately into the Roma goal.
If the end of the first half had been decided by the brilliance of Salah then the start of the second was something much worse for Roma, the proverbial bloodbath. The third and fourth goals of the night were created by Salah, both times released down the right wing and carefully picking his pass for chances that Mane and then Firmino could not miss. Roma conceded the fifth direct from James Milner’s corner which Firmino nodded past Alisson.
Neither of the two teams who have previously scored five in a Champions League semi-final first leg in the history of this competition have failed to progress to the final. Roma’s two goals came later with Salah off the pitch, and while they changed the mood in Anfield at the final whistle, the belief seems to prevail that when Salah is on the pitch then anything is possible.
Jurgen Klopp speaks
A long time a perfect performance. Eighty minutes were up. Defensively we make one mistake and Dzeko is good enough. We agree the penalty is not a penalty and now it's 5-2. I would be more happy if we won 5-0 or 5-1 but i could not imagine [before] 5-2. We go there and we try to win. How we played them, all these runs behind, it was brilliant. e scored these goals, we could have scored more. that sound's crazy in a Champions League semi-final. It's all positive. We are Liverpool, it's all-inclusive football, we have to go the hard way. Oxlade is probably a really bad injury, a massive blow, of course. The crowd was magnificent, we need that on Saturday. Nothing less will do.
Jordan Henderson speaks
We're disappointed with the goals, you cannot do that in the Champions League. It'll be a tough challenge but we've got to take confidence from the performance. We didn't play enough football in the last 20 minutes but we still made chances. We gave them the Dzeko goal and then the nerves set in. I didn't think it was a penalty, it looked harsh. Some of the balls we played in, I'm disappointed we didn't score more. Going there will be a challenge.
What an extraordinary match - Roma played well for the first 20 minutes and the last 10 but were absolutely mullered for an hour as Liverpool, full of swagger, pace, intelligent movement and confidence shredded their poorly set-up defence. Salah was outstanding, a genuine Player of the Year performance but without the understanding between him and Firmino and Mane and their contributions, he wouldn't be so effective. Roma, proud to the last, grabbed a couple back to stop the door slamming completely shut and will take solace that where but the Eternal City does hope spring, erm, eternal.
Liverpool switch to a back three but will face one final attack by conceding a free-kick deep in the Roma half. Ings, playing wide right. Heads out the intended long pass up the flank.
Liverpool substitution: Firmino off for Klavan.
Liverpool fans whistle with concerted ferocity. Florenzi shoots at Karius.
Nainggolan's shot from 18 yards is deflected wide for a corner which Roma waste. There'll be four minutes added on.
Schick makes a great run across field and plays in Perotti cutting into the box from the left but he scuffs his shot.
Hell's teeth - Liverpool decide to have a kip. Dzeko chips Karius from 25 yards and he scrambles back s it trims the top of the bar. The atmosphere punctures like a popped balloon as Dzeko beats Alexander-Arnold down the right and crosses to the near post. Perotti cannot turn it in from the near post.
Brilliant penalty, chipped insouciantly into the top right corner.
Liverpool 5-2 Roma (Perotti, pen)
JJ • Now
Nainggolan shoots that hist Milner's leg and arm.
Now Dzeko shoots from 18 yards, but drags it. This time Henderson's missed tackle creates the opening.
Daft mistake from Lovren who never concentrates for the whole game. He mistimes his leap to clear Nainggolan's ball over the top that sails over him. Dzeko traps it and finishes coolly. Class act.
Liverpool 5-1 Roma (Dzeko)
And here's Liverpool's fifth:
Roma's players continue to bicker with their manager.
I genuinely haven't seen such a dreadful defensive performance during a supposedly elite game since Brazil's in the 2014 semi-final. Liverpool are happy to take their time now as Allez x3 echoes round the stadium.
Mohamed Salah is substituted. On comes Danny Ings.
Lovren goes into the book for a hack at Strootman.
Kolarov and Strootman combine down the left and the Dutchman clips an outswinger towards the back post that Schick meets and heads low, but too close to Karius.
Roma players keep consulting their manager Eusebio Di Francesco as if they're utterly bereft of ideas or trying to persuade him to change something. His defensive tactics have been naive beyond belief. Has he seen Liverpool play?
Francesco Totti, picked out in the crowd, has a face like thunder. And no wonder as Firmino gets up to meet a corner and heads it in under so little pressure that it was as if Roma have run up the white flag.
Liverpool 5-0 Roma (Firmino)
JJ • Now
Roma substitutions - De Rossi off for Gonalons. Perotti replaces Juan Jesus.
Strootman and Milner fly into a tackle and the former comes up wincing, the latter smiling.
Salah adds his second assist to his two goals by exploiting Kolarov's loss of the ball, Salah again shuttles inside, skins the hapless Juan Jesus and tees up Firmino for a far-post tap-in. Roma are being trounced.
Liverpool 4-0 Roma (Firmino)
This is the most one-sided semi since Brazil vs Germany.
Robertson weaves through the box and is block-tackled as he tries to stab a shot in from about eight yards. This is ridiculously relentless from Liverpool. A proper thrashing.
Kolarov makes encouraging progress up the left, picks out Schick who has to lean back to reach it and scrapes a shot over the bar.
Alexander-Arnold bends a long ball up the right to Salah who was, I think, just offside. No flag so he glides into the box and from a range of options, picks out Mane for a simple tap-in.
Liverpool 3-0 Roma (Mane)A hot knife through butter.
Goodness. Manolas makes a terrible error, trying to dribble out and can't deal with the high press, panics and loses the ball to Firmino who taps it up to Mane who was needlessly offside.
Lovely touch from Salah through the middle threatens to put him one-on-one with Alisson but Fazio, more by accident than design, intercepts.
Every challenge on a red shirt is claimed as a foul by the crowd for a spell. Lovely turn from Wijnaldum with a deft flick of his right foot before he spins and chips a 40-yard pass out to Salah on the right. His cross hits Jesus on the chest - the crowd wants a penalty but the referee does not yield.
One-two between Firmino and Salah almost opens up the inside-right channel for the latter striker, but Manolas gets round the back to knock it behind.
Roma are trying to take the sting out of this. Kolarov dinks it up to Schick who fouls Lovren as they challenge for it though not as painfully as Lovren makes it out to be.
Milner tries to control the ball on his knee 30 yards out, doesn't quite and it catches Strootman on the arm. The crowd bellows 'hand ball' and the ref gives the free-kick that is pumped straight into the wall.
Roma have made a substitution, bringing Patrik Schik on for Cengiz Under and changing to 3-5-2.
And here's his second
The run to twist Juan Jesus' blood, turning him out to the left before cutting inside, was majestic and a touch sadistic.
Has been irrepressible for 20 minutes.
Liverpool struggled for 20 minutes and then it was as if the fog dissipated, they could see clearly and knew exactly what they needed to do. Subsequently they have bombarded the Roma goal, run the opposition ragged, bypassed their classy midfield and turned it into a game of angles and pace to expose the gaps between keeper and defence, defence and midfield.
Dzeko's cross from the left is cut out by Van Dijk and Liverpool break like lightning. The whacked clearance is won by Salah who stuns it in his own half, lays it off to Firmino who spurts forward with Salah beside him. At the right moment he releases it to Salah who feigns to go out, but instead tacks straight and chips Alisson as the keeper raced out in desperation, trying to make himself big. What a finish. What a player.
Liverpool 2-0 Roma (Salah)
Lovren makes a run round the back, untracked, and has a free header from the corner, steering it harmlessly close to Alisson.
Salah skates in from the right and passes to Firmino. Wijnaldum makes a clever run to distract Juan Jesus and opens the space for Firmino to shoot but his shot strikes Manolas and goes behind for a corner.
Robertson launches a 60-yard ball over the top for Wijnaldum who had made a clever run and the substitute whacks a low daisy-cutter with his left that the excellent Alisson saves low to his right. Here's Salah's finish:
Should have had a second. Lovren wins an aerial challenge at a corner, towering over his marker, meets it perfectly on the meat of his brow and steers it on to the top of the bar. Roma are reeling and rocking. Di Francesco is screaming at them to tighten up.
Henderson wins the ball in midfield from a hesitant Dzeko, moves it up to Firmino who brings it forward and passes to Salah, now back on the right. He glides across the 18-yard line then arcs a glorious shot with his left foot up and over Alisson so that it kisses the underside of the bar en route to the back of the net. Delightful finish. What a player he is.
Liverpool 1-0 Roma (Salah)And it's a peach.
Liverpool put the ball into the net - Mane - from a Robertson cross crafted by Milner's pass. But mane was offside when Milner passed, never mind when Robertson centred. Liverpool have read the manual and grasped how to pull this defence apart now.
The BT Sport analysts - Hoddle and McManaman - think Salah has lost his confidence because Fazio has managed to tackle him.
Liverpool get behind the back three again without seemingly breaking sweat and this time Salah is the man with the chance but he smarts Alisson's palms diving to his right with his shot rather than firing it towards the left side of the keeper. From the corner Roma look all at sea until De Rossi wins a towering header.
And now he's missed another opportunity after Liverpool exploit a high line to free Firmino down the inside-right channel and he shifts it inside for Mane to shoot but he slips and slices it miles over.
Oh! Mane is played in behind by a great Firmino pass and has a 40-yard run to goal with the ungainly Fazio in pursuit. He gets to the edge of the box, Alisson comes out and Mane spanks it with his left 2ft over the bar.
Milner curls it into the box, aimed towards the right but Juan Jesus leaps up to meet it and knock it clear. Roma hold their shape and give Liverpool no space between the vertical and horizontal lines when they move it gradually away from danger.
Alexander-Arnold sends in a right-foot cross from the touchline, intended for Mane's late run across Fazio, but it;s too close to Alisson. A minute later Juan Jesus uses his strength illegally to fell Sane. Liverpool free-kick 30 yards out, dead straight.
Juan Jesus is quick and strong, holding off Salah as the winger chases a flighted diagonal clipped from left to right and Roma clear their lines.
Dejan Lovren makes a rash challenge on Cengiz Under as he runs into the box. He steps across him and catches his foot but the attacking midfielder didn't go down. Anfield gasps. Very bright start from Roma. Dzeko's touch has been immaculate so far.
From the corner, Liverpool head it out and Kolarov spanks a 25-yarder that swerves and dips. Karius makes a right Horlicks of it, moving too far to his left then scrambles to push it with his right hand on to the cross bar. Good recovery. Oxlade-Chamberlain leaves on a stretcher.
He can't continue - Wijnaldum replaces Oxlade-Chamberlain as Roma take a corner earned by Dzeko's astute turn around the corner for Florenzi that Lovren had to knock behind.
A length delay while Oxlade-Chamberlain injures himself in a tackle with Edin Dzeko. He landed awkwardly and seems to have twisted his right knee when Dzeko fell on him. After treatment he gets up on to his haunches then collapses, his leg buckling. They take him off for further treatment. Wijnaldum goes for a jog up the touchline.
Salah is played in up the right by Alexander-Arnold's long pass up the line but it skirts the whitewash and bobbles out as the winger tries to control it. From the throw, Dzeko holds it up brilliantly, shifts it to Kolarov and bombs into the box for the left-wing cross that instead sails down Karius' throat.
Florenzi gets in behind Robertson but De Rossi's long, diagonal skips off the wet turf on its first bounce and skids behind for a goalkick. Good run by Florenzi, though, and the right idea from the World Cup winning midfielder.
Nainggolan goes down when Van Dijk stands on his foot. The Dutch defender protests but he did catch him. Lovren heads the free-kick from the centre-circle clear and up to Salah who is brought down by Juan Jesus, inadvertently slipping on the slick grass. The referee ignores it.
Now Oxlade-Chamblerlain has a dig from 25 yards and scuds a low shot at Alisson. Nainggolan goes up the other end and screws a shot from the right wide of the far post and halfway to the corner flag. This is so open.
Salah picks the lock by winning the ball with his chest, turning to slip through a pass down the inside right channel. Firmino looks offside but he isn't flagged - and there's another reason for that, too, his flag is broken. Firmnio scoots towards the right post, goes too far and his shot skitters across goal and out towards the corner flag.
Salah cuts in from the right, exposing Roma's phenomenally high line, and steers a left foot shot into Alisson's hands. He was aiming for the far post. Loads of space behind Roma's back three.
De Rossi wins a challenge with Milner, shifts the ball left to Dzeko to hold up and and Roma pick out Strootman in the middle, 20 yards out. He shoots, whipping a crisp shot that bends into the arms of Karius.
Roma kick off and attack from left to right, playing it back to Alisson who pumps it long for Dzeko. He wins the header on the left and pops it off to Nainggolan whose ball up the line is shepherded out for a Liverpool throw.
Has just shown the Kop singing YNWA. All three of their pundits - Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard thibnk Liverpool will win. Out come the teams.
One Liverpool fan reportedly injured outside Anfield
The Roma group came out of Venmore St, and attack was sudden. Picked an older Liverpool fan and atracked him. A lot of police around but they were slow on the scene. Poor guy is still down. Horrible stuff.— Jonathan Northcroft (@JNorthcroft) April 24, 2018
A scuffle outside Anfield
An isolated incident by most accounts but not very edifying for all concerned:
Jurgen Klopp speaks - what are your aims?
A good game and a result we can work with. We cannot get a result without a good game. it's a strong side, obviously. They pay the same system they played against Barceloan so it's a big honour. It's exciting - they have a mix of experience, youth, threat; if you go through our line-up it's the same. We always play our football, we don't want to concede but we want to score as well. We want to see a performance before we talk about a result.
Ay up - it's cultural appropriation time
But done very well ...
From Sam Dean outside Anfield
Genuinely phenomenal atmosphere on the streets of Anfield as the Liverpool fans waited for the team bus. The chants of "Allez! Allez! Allez!" bounced off the houses, while the smell of flares filled the nostrils and stung the eyes. The relentless rain made it feel more real, more raw. Hoods down, shoulders back, volume up. The only problem is that the club shop doesn't towels...
The gathering of the clan
Shared a cab to Anfield with stranded Liverpool fan. Me: "Where've you come from?" Him: "Adelaide." Tracked down a ticket online "after a couple of whiskeys." Most expensive Scotch ever drunk.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) April 24, 2018
Another perspective of the Roma bus's arrival
What a difference not coming from Manchester makes ...
Roma team bus arriving at Anfield pic.twitter.com/wWig3XCRQN— Matt Critchley (@MattCritchley1) April 24, 2018
The Roma coach's arrival
And elsewhere the miracle of Anfield ...
And an improvised podium
Those teams in the traditional format
Liverpool Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Substitutes Mignolet, Clyne, Wijnaldum, Klavan, Moreno, Ings, Solanke.
Roma Alisson; Fazio, Manolas, Juan Jesus; Florenzi, De Rossi, Strootman, Kolarov; Cengiz Under, Nainggolan; Dzeko.
Substitutes Skorupski, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Perotti, Schick, Gonalons, Bruno Peres, El Shaarawy.
Referee Felix Brych (Germany)
Auld Lang Syne
Radja Nainggolan greets old mucker Mohamed Salah.
Meanwhile outside Anfield
I've heard of community policing ... Merseyside police are more lenient than when I were a lad. Try sitting atop a black mariah back then and you would have been eating truncheon.
The captain starts in central midfield - no Joe Gomez on the bench.
And Roma have gone for a 3-4-2-1
The teams are in
This is a lovely read
And who'd be in your Roma XI?
Again the defence is pretty settled so it would be Nainggolan, Strootman, De Rossi and Florenzi in midfield for me, Perotti and Dezeko up front.
More film from Sam Dean on the streets
Some Everton fans are insisting they're all Norwegian. I haven't been to Anfield for years - 14 now since we were relegated - but I do remember there were plenty of Scandinavians over the morning of that match.
Half an hour before the teams are announced
Who would be in your starting XIs
I think the back four and keeper are obvious as are the front three. In midfield I'd go with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner and Wijnaldum. Other opinions are available ...
Our man Sam Dean has sent us some footage from Liverpool L4
Roma's anthem mash
Roma have played a blinder this week and this is another gem:
Two historic clubs. Two iconic anthems.— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) April 24, 2018
There is no better sight in European football than when the Curva Sud sing 'Roma, Roma, Roma' and the Kop sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.#ASRoma#LFCpic.twitter.com/PmWvtGFQox
Thinking about the coach, surely Liverpool fans won't attack it. Those with memories of trips to Italy know how unsettling and dangerous an experience it can be without any provocation.
The programme cover
What are we supposed to call them now? You can't beat the Fabs but without Coutinho we can hardly persist with that analogy, unless we cast Phil as Pete Best and draft in another member. Doesn't seem fair. The Big Three - for all one's love of Some Other Guy, though not their version - is hardly fitting. Suggestions welcomed - and please, not the Three Amigos. No one wants to be Chevy Chase.
And welcome to live coverage of the first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Liverpool and Roma from Anfield. You'll have seen some lovely pieces over the past few days, collated on the handy links below, on the 1984 final, the tragedy of 'Ago' Di Bartolomei, the remarkable insouciance of 'Barney' Kennedy and Bruce Grobbelaar and Joe Fagan's extraordinary self-assurance.
This is Liverpool's first semi-final since defeating Chelsea in 2007 on penalties when Buddha Benítez sat cross-legged on the touchline as Dirk Kuyt crashed in the winner at Anfield. But Jurgen Klopp's last was in 2013 when hos Dortmund side turned up the volume to 17 and beasted Real Madrid from the first whistle in the first leg, Robert Lewandowski scoring all four in the 4-1 victory that won the tie after 66 minutes of the 180. If you wanted a template for how Liverpool did the same to Man City in the quarters, you only have to replay that match.
Will they try the same high tempo start against Roma, playing their first semi-final since they stole it off the Terrors back in 1984? I think they will. In fact I think they must for that is how Klopp's teams shine.
We will have team news as soon as it drops and all the build-up from Anfield including the arrival of the Roma coach and its reception by Liverpool fans. If they have heeded Klopp's imprecations, armoured glass won't be required tonight. Uefa's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body meets on May 31 to decide Liverpool's punishment for that act of vandalism and intimidation. An encore tonight would have even more serious ramifications.