Mo Salah put in a masterful display, scoring twice and providing two assists, as Liverpool rubbed Roma’s face in the Anfield dirt with a 5-2 Champions League semi-final first leg win.
As a kid, I hated Liverpool with the same passion as I hated a popped balloon. Like most things people hate in life, there was no rational reason. As a Manchester United fan, hating Liverpool was on Page 52 of the supporter’s rulebook.
With a few war medals pinned on my overpriced Thirty Seconds to Mars concert t-shirt I know we hated them because they were brilliant. We couldn’t win the league. Liverpool won so many European Cups, IKEA moved into Anfield to build more trophy space.
He was the man.
During the 1983-84 season, the skinny Welshman scored 48 goals.
Today, Liverpool have a new man.
His name is Mohamed Salah.
And he is spearheading an outfit that at times play like the Anfield ghosts of the past.
Mo Salah destroys his former side in a magnificent Liverpool win.
What a few days for Mo Salah.
Over the weekend, the Professional Football Association (PFA) named him the Player of the Year. To celebrate, he trotted out into a volcanic Anfield atmosphere and tore his former club Roma to shreds.
Roma fans must be thinking – why did we let this one go.
Liverpool murdered Roma in the first 45-minutes. Sadio Mane should have had a hat-trick before the clock struck 36-minutes. During those 60-seconds, Mo Salah picked up the ball on the right, jinked inside the box, and curled a left-foot dipper into the top corner of the goal.
Dejan Lovren struck the crossbar with a header from a corner before Liverpool caught Roma on the break with Roberto Firmino finding his way of out a midfield puzzle on the halfway line. Salah kept pace; the Brazilian put him through on goal, and he delightfully chipped the round white thing over the onrushing Alisson.
It was Salah’s 43rd goal in 48 games since moving from Roma in a £34m summer deal.
And when the lad isn’t putting the ball into the back of the net, he’s kicking it to his teammates to do the same.
Ten minutes after the break, you felt the tie was deader than roadkill when Salah found space on the right; looked up like a lion seeking its prey, and threaded an inch-perfect cross to Mane to tap-in the third.
Five minutes later, a carbon copy. Salah found himself in the same spot and the only difference in this equation was the presence of Firmino to score his ninth Champions League goal of the season.
The Brazilian’s tenth came in the 69th minute when he headed home a Liverpool corner. There wasn’t a person in the world who believed Roma had a sniff.
And then they had a sniff.
With nine minutes on the clock, Radja Nainggolan put a peach of a ball into the box; it found its way over the head of a Liverpool defender, and Edin Dzeko chested it down brilliantly before finishing in the bottom corner.
Three minutes later and Roma breathed new life into the tie when Diego Perotti scored from the spot after the referee had ruled James Milner had handled in the box.
Roma came to Anfield knowing they had only won once in 15 Champions League ties outside of the Stadio Olimpico, and Man Utd once savaged them 7-1 in a Champions League tie that took place just down the road – but they never expected this.
But hope remains.
In the quarter-finals, Roma lost 4-1 to Barcelona in the Nou Camp only to knock out the then favourites by winning 3-0 in the Stadio Olimpico. A repeat of that scoreline will see Roma going through to the final. But can they stop Salah, Sane and Firmino?
I don’t think so.
The only question remains who will face Liverpool in the final.
Champions League Odds
Real Madrid 9/4
Bayern Munich 23/10