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What we learned from Liverpool’s qualification to the UCL final despite fightback

AS Roma produced a valiant display at the Stadio Olimpico, defeating Liverpool 4-2 on the night, but it is the Reds who have advanced to the Champions League final with a 7-6 aggregate victory.

Liverpool got the early goal that they so desperately craved nine minutes in when Roberto Firmino pounced on a Radja Nainggolan mistake, springing the counter-attack before sliding the ball into Sadio Mane, who finished coolly past Alisson and into the net.

Just six minutes later it was back to square one as Roma equalised in freakish fashion, with Dejan Lovren’s attempted clearance out of the box cannoned against James Milner’s head and nestled into the corner of the goal.

The Reds knew that if they could score two goals then the tie may well be over, and Georginio Wijnaldum was first to react to Edin Dzeko’s poor defensive header as he was on hand to nod the ball into the back of the net.

When Edin Dzeko scored in the 52nd minute from Stephan El Shaarawy’s saved shot, the mood remained that it was mere consolation for the hosts.

From there however, Liverpool imploded in the final five minutes of the match. Nainggolan scored a cracker from outside the box in the 86th minute, rifling a shot in off the post, and added a fourth from the penalty spot deep into stoppage time as Roman tails were suddenly up.

Thankfully for Liverpool, the full time whistle was blown immediately following kick-off from the penalty, and scenes of jubilation ensued as they set their sights on a sixth Champions League crown.

Attack the best form of defence

The old football cliche rings true for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team, as it only has its ruthless attacking power to thank for guiding it through to the final in Kyiv.

The German’s high-octane style of football meant Liverpool could not afford to rest on their laurels and had to go out and score themselves in order to wrap up the tie in Rome, and for 45 minutes, it looked as though they were doing it perfectly.

Roma were naturally always bound to throw men forward as they had three goals to score in order to win the tie, which left gaps in their defence for Liverpool’s counter-attacks to exploit.

Liverpool punished two errors from the hosts in their two goals, and they used this as a basis for their pressing and reaction to the way in which Roma came at them.

Rather than sitting deep and inviting the hosts to come onto them, they stayed high, waited until they won the ball and as soon as they did, they were off the other way in a flash.

The Reds know that they come into any fixture being confident of scoring, however they will need to be better switched on at the back and more alert against Los Blancos as they find themselves up against Cristiano Ronaldo and co.

Roma can hold heads high

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side was the true darkhorse of this tournament, the fairytale story as it defied all odds to make it to the last four.

Finishing the group stages atop Group C, ahead of Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, was impressive enough, but what followed was nothing short of spectacular.

A narrow win on away goals over Shaktar Donetsk sent them through to the quarter-finals where they faced heavyweights Barcelona, and after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp it seemed all hope was lost.

Di Francesco engineered one of the great Champions League comebacks in that tie, and despite conceding five times in the first-leg of the semi-final, his side still managed to remain in the hunt for a ticket to the final.

Flying the flag of Italy in continental competition, Roma have won over the hearts of football fans the world over with their determined and perseverant football in Europe this season, and can exit the competition knowing that they were excellent throughout, and with confidence of a repeat performance next season.

Liverpool must keep their heads

Klopp and his players were seen in a euphoric state at the final whistle, as the entire bench ran onto the pitch to celebrate with the 11 men who had finished the match.

Making it all the way to the final is a tremendous achievement and is no mean feat, but the Reds must be wary of celebrating too much, too soon in their quest for the trophy.

It should not be forgotten that this match itself ended in a loss for Liverpool and that their performance levels will needs a lift from this match if they are to have any hope of vanquishing Real Madrid’s control over the Champions League.

Some of Liverpool’s best football has come in the Champions league this season. From smashing seven past Maribor and Spartak Moscow, to the 5-0 win at Porto and the rampant first-leg victory against Manchester City, the Reds are more than capable of replicating that level of performance.

Real Madrid will be an entirely new proposition for Klopp’s side as the German looks to right the wrongs of his loss in the final with Borussia Dortmund in 2013.

Liverpool are more than capable of taking the game to Madrid and winning the match, and they should not be overawed at the prospect of facing the two-time reigning champions.

All is set for a thrilling final in Kyiv, with everything on the line and nothing to lose for both teams, it is sure to capture the attention of millions across the globe.

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