That...was an eventful night. As far as 7-goal thrillers go—and we’ve seen a few this season—5-2 in a Champions League semifinal will do. Of course, and as we saw in the previous round when Roma saw off favorites Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico by overcoming a 3-goal deficit, we still have work left to do. So in the sobering morning-after daylight, let’s take a look at a few lessons we can glean from last night.
Mo Salah Can’t Stop Scoring
With the game in the balance, and several big chances left wanting by his teammate Sadio Mane, Liverpool fans of the past few seasons could be forgiven for thinking “it might be one of those nights.” Salah has turned that narrative on its head. In 15 minutes he lifted Liverpool to a 2-0 halftime lead, through an inch-perfect curling strike, and a cheeky, composed chip of an on-rushing Alisson. And in the second half he added two assists, because why not?
The goals were his 42nd and 43rd of the campaign, briefly equalling, and then surpassing Roger Hunt’s mark set in 1961/62. It puts him just 4 goals back of Ian Rush’s seemingly unbreakable record of 47, set in 1983/84 (a year in which, it must be noted, Liverpool saw off Roma to win the European Cup).
In 20 second half of the season performances so far, Salah has bagged a goal in 16 of them. Further, he has added his name to the score sheet in each of his last 8 appearances, tallying 12 goals and 4 assists over that stretch. With 4, possibly 5 games on the horizon, Ian should be preparing some kind words when his record is broken. It’s safe to assume that we can achieve anything if Mo keeps finding the target.
The Injury Crisis Is Here
And if we’re honest, it has been creeping up on us for some time now. However, the injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a big, big blow. We simply have a starting XI, and as we saw on the weekend, a precipitous drop off from there.
We have two centerbacks. We have three midfielders. We have three forwards. And four-ish fullbacks (if you trust Alberto Moreno and Joe Gomez to deputize without a lot of recent first-team action). “Thin” doesn’t really do our bare-bones squad justice.
It’s no coincidence that Liverpool conceded four late goals in the last two matches, as our midfield ran their legs off without much in the way of help from the bench. Klopp mentioned in his post-match comments that he’ll have to get creative in rotation. And he must, as he balances the dreams of European glory, with the pragmatism of ensuring our participation again through the league.
Underestimate Liverpool At Your Peril
When the teamsheet came out, and it appeared Roma would go three at the back, I said it would either be genius or suicidal. It proved the latter. It was Roma’s strategy in overcoming the 4-1 deficit from Camp Nou, but they’ll need a different one if they want to keep Liverpool off the scoreboard, and to give themselves another shot at a comeback.
In the build up to the match, we heard a great deal about how Liverpool’s romp through the Champions League was not nearly as impressive as Roma’s. On paper, that might be true. And moreover, how Roma’s defense would give Liverpool problems. That will not be the narrative after last night.
Liverpool has consistently been able to put the team’s they’ve faced to the sword this season. Porto were sporting an impressive home and defensive record. Were. Manchester City were one of the competition favorites. Were.
Obviously, it’s not over yet, and a great deal of ink will no doubt be printed about Roma’s fantastic European home form this season, where they have not conceded a goal. Yet.
I certainly wouldn’t bet against this club firing their way into the final, especially after what we saw last night.