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Jürgen Klopp’s thrilling Liverpool
The awe and wonder from a remarkable Anfield night has not diminished the day after. Fifteen minutes to play in a Champions League semi-final and Jürgen Klopp thinks of Stoke. Almost 60% remains of a tie to decide the cream of Europe’s elite and it is Bruno Martins Indi, Erik Pieters and Mame Biram Diouf who enter the Liverpool manager’s head as he
withdraws Mohamed Salah to safeguard against injury. What’s more, he admits it too. “I’m not thinking of one game,” Klopp said. The thought was justified, and another measure of Liverpool’s astonishing command over Roma. Respite from Salah is temporary.
ranked Liverpool the No 1 team in Europe in February 2009 based on a five-year period of success and consistency under Rafael Benítez. A month later they revelled in a 4-0 destruction of Real Madrid that took Benítez’s team into the Champions League quarter-finals, following a semi-final appearance in 2008, a runners-up spot in 2007 and the ultimate triumph in 2005.
Klopp’s Liverpool cannot compare with that body of work in only his second full season as manager. His team have, however, reached a level of exhilarating attacking brilliance in this Champions League
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campaign that their predecessors would envy. And just like the quality of Salah’s goals, they are improving.
The 5-2 first-leg romp over Roma made it 38 Champions League goals this season for Liverpool. It is 44 when the qualifier against Hoffenheim is included. With 10 apiece, Salah and the crucial Roberto Firmino now share the record for most goals in a single European campaign by a Liverpool player. Along with Sadio Mané, who should have had a hat-trick on Tuesday, they form the most prolific forward line
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in the competition – 28 goals and counting. And Liverpool have scored in each of their six European away fixtures this term.
Roma’s obligation to attack in Stadio Olimpico next Wednesday will whet
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Liverpool’s appetite for more. “I learned tonight that we can win the second leg, too,” said Klopp, though he was in no mood to celebrate after losing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to a serious knee injury.
Post-match interviews are framed by emotion but the contrasting approaches of the managers in the
aftermath of the first leg also bodes well for Liverpool’s pursuit of a sixth European Cup.
Eusebio Di Francesco, the Roma coach, abdicated responsibility for the high defensive line and three-man rearguard that invited Salah to destroy his former club with one of the finest individual displays in Europe that Anfield has witnessed.
It was his players’ fault, Di Francesco claimed, for losing too many individual duels and allowing the Liverpool midfield
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to launch the “lethal” breaks that Roma had focused on stopping in training. “My Roma players don’t need to tell me about Salah,” ran the headline on the Guardian’s interview with Di Francesco this week. Someone should have done.
“We don’t need miracles” was the gist of the Roma coach’s message as he inevitably invoked memories of their quarter‑final comeback against Barcelona. As others quickly pointed
out, Liverpool achieved a level of dominance over the Italian side on Tuesday that the Spanish league leaders never did, not even during their 4-1 first leg victory at the Camp Nou.
Roma were given hope at Anfield by the two late away goals that followed Salah’s substitution. It is unlikely to be hope but the magnificent Egyptian that kills them in the return.
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