Wednesday May 2 2018
CL: Valiant Roma go out

Roma fought back twice to beat Liverpool 4-2 on the night, but were denied a clear penalty and lost the Champions League semi-final 7-6 on aggregate.

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Jurgen Klopp’s men lose their unbeaten record in the tournament so far, but go through to face Real Madrid in the Final in Kiev.

The Giallorossi lost the first leg 5-2 at Anfield, so needed a 3-0 win here, which is the exact same situation they found themselves in during the quarter-finals against Barcelona. Mohamed Salah returned to face his former club, but Emre Can, Joe Gomez, Adam Lallana, Joel Matip and Alex Oxlande-Chamberlain were injured. The hosts missed Kevin Strootman, Diego Perotti and Gregoire Defrel, but returned to 4-3-3 with Lorenzo Pellegrini, Patrik Schick and Stephan El Shaarawy stepping in.

Alessandro Florenzi’s scorcher flashed inches wide in the opening minutes, but all the good work was undone as Radja Nainggolan’s horrible back-pass in midfield was intercepted and threaded through for unmarked Sadio Mane to beat Alisson Becker one-on-one. It was the first goal Roma had conceded at home in the Champions League this season.

If it was an error to gift the opener, Liverpool repaid the favour, as Dejan Lovren kicked his clearance straight at James Milner, it ricocheted off him and into the net to equalise.

It was wide open, even more so than the first leg, with Mane curling wide and Alisson sticking out a foot to deny Mane from point-blank range, but from that corner Dzeko’s attempt to clear went backwards and accidentally turned into an assist for Georginio Wijnaldum to nod in.

El Shaarawy’s curler bent around Loris Karius only to thump the base of the far post on 35 minutes, while Florenzi fired well wide from a promising position on the half-volley.

After the restart, Dzeko was brought down by Karius in the penalty area, but only after the offside flag had gone up for a very dubious decision.

They did get the equaliser when El Shaarawy’s curler was palmed into the path of Dzeko to fire in from eight yards. It was his fifth consecutive Champions League game on target. With 11 goals, this became the highest-scoring Champions League semi-final ever.

Eusebio Di Francesco immediately moved to 4-2-3-1 with Cengiz Under on for Pellegrini and the Turkish talent forced a save from Karius at full stretch with a volley on Daniele De Rossi’s ball over the top.

Roma had a triple chance with a series of blocks and ricochets, until Trent Alexander-Arnold charged down El Shaarawy’s attempt in front of goal with his hand. The referee and officials waved play on for what should’ve been a penalty and arguably red card.

The hosts were now swarming, as Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross-shot was palmed into the path of Dzeko, who then turned wide, and substitute Maxime Gonalons blasted high and wide from the edge of the box.

El Shaarawy went off with cramp, replaced by 19-year-old Mirko Antonucci on his European debut. Schick fired over from the edge of the area, Dzeko’s Van Basten style volley flashed wide and another chance was denied from point-blank range by Karius one-handed with nobody ready to tap in the rebound.

The domination of the second half eventually paid off with Nainggolan’s scorching right-foot daisy-cutter from 20 metres that went in off the inside of the far post.

Just to rub salt in the wound, Roma received a penalty during the three minutes of stoppages for Ragnar Klavan's handball – frankly less of a spot-kick than the earlier incident – and Nainggolan blasted it into the roof of the net.

The final whistle blew less than 30 seconds later and the Stadio Olimpico applauded another Romantada, even if it was not enough.

Roma 4-2 Liverpool (6-7 agg)

Mane 9 (L), Milner og 15 (R), Wijnaldum 25 (L), Dzeko 52 (R), Nainggolan 86, pen 92 (R)

Roma: Alisson; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Pellegrini (Under 53), De Rossi (Gonalons 69), Nainggolan; Schick, Dzeko, El Shaarawy (Antonucci 75)

Liverpool: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino (Solanke 87), Mane (Klavan 82)

Ref: Skomina (SLV)

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