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Dublin: 0°C Thursday 6 May 2021

Salah emphasises Ballon d'Or credentials and more Liverpool-Roma talking points

Plus, naive tactics from the Italians facilitate their opponents’ goal rush.

Mo Salah scored a brace against Roma tonight.
Mo Salah scored a brace against Roma tonight.
Image: Martin Rickett

1. Salah playing as well as anyone in the world right now

MO SALAH HAS enjoyed a phenomenal season and it was hard to argue with the decision to award him with the PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday.

Tonight, against the club that sold him to Liverpool, Salah showed why people have been heaping praise on the Egypt international of late.

The very best players tend to consistently have an impact on the biggest occasions and that was certainly the case with Salah at Anfield this evening.

The 25-year-old scored his 42nd and 43rd goals of the season, in addition to setting up the next two, as the Reds ran rampant against their hapless Italian opponents.

He is now just four goals away from equalling Ian Rush’s record 47 goals in the 1983-84 campaign.

As Michael Owen told The42 on Sunday, the former Chelsea player is on his way to becoming a club legend provided he can maintain this phenomenal form for a few more seasons.

And should the brilliant attacker propel Liverpool to Champions League glory, then he surely represents a big threat to the stranglehold Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have had on the Ballon d’Or for the past 10 years.

2. Naive Roma tactics facilitate Liverpool’s goal rush

Liverpool v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League - Semi Final - First Leg - Anfield AS Roma's Ramses Alisson looks dejected after conceding a fourth goal. Source: Peter Byrne

As impressive as Liverpool looked for long periods of tonight’s game, there is no doubt that Roma were their own worst enemies at times.

The Italians’ record at the Stadio Olimpico, where they have yet to concede once in the Champions League this season, has been so impressive of late that they would fancy themselves to beat anyone there.

On the road, however, they have looked less formidable, with a 4-1 defeat by Barcelona away in the quarter-final first leg highlighting their frailties.

With that in mind, Roma surely should have considered sitting back and turning the match into a cagey affair this evening with a view to playing a more expansive game next week.

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Inferior sides to the Italians have frustrated Liverpool with negative tactics already this season — Jurgen Klopp’s men have drawn blanks against Everton, Swansea, West Brom and Man United in their 2017-18 Premier League campaign.

Instead, the Italians tried to play a high line against the lightning speed of Mo Salah and co, with Federico Fazio, a 31-year-old centre-back who struggled to cope with the pace of the Premier League at Tottenham, among their players at the back.

Liverpool’s phenomenal attacking trio time and again punished the visitors for their open approach to the game, and despite the concession of two late goals, the Reds are still in pole position to progress to the final ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg.

3. Can Roma pull off a second miraculous comeback?

Virtually no one believed there was any hope for Roma in the quarter-final after they were beaten 4-1 by Barcelona in the first leg.

They subsequently stunned the Catalan outfit, winning the second leg 3-0, to advance to the next round.

And if they beat Liverpool by the same scoreline in Rome, they will earn a place in next month’s final in Kiev.

Yet a second comeback appears equally as improbable as the first. There a couple of reasons why Liverpool are unlikely to ‘do a Barcelona’.

Firstly, there was an element of complacency to the La Liga side’s approach to that infamous second leg, and Liverpool, having witnessed what Roma can do, surely won’t make the same mistake.

Secondly, Roma will have to really go for the game in the second leg — the type of scenario that should give Salah, Mane and Firmino ample opportunity to hurt them on the counter-attack. For all their qualities, Barca don’t have quite the same lightning speed in attack as Liverpool, which meant Roma could thrive and dominate last time out.

And of course, Liverpool already have experience of holding a three-goal lead from the last round against Man City, and the experience of that tie, where they wobbled to a degree in the first half of the second leg, before emerging 2-1 winners on the night, is likely to prove invaluable next week.

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Paul Fennessy

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