Liverpool took a giant step towards the Champions League final on Tuesday night with a 5-2 win over Roma, in a scintillating display by Jurgen Klopp’s men.
The Anfield outfit’s triumph over Manchester City in the last round showed that on their day the Reds can beat anyone in European football – and Roma were lambs to the slaughter for most of this encounter.
While two late away goals will sow seeds of doubt in Liverpool heads, the Merseyside outfit find themselves in a dominant position and with one foot in the final in Kiev.
Here are a number of key observations from 90 exhilarating minutes of football.
Mo Salah looking Messi-esque and will be in Ballon d’Or reckoning
When Liverpool splashed the cash to bring Mohamed Salah to Anfield in the summer, there was a relatively muted reaction.
The Egypt international’s previous foray into English football with Chelsea had ended in failure and there were question marks over the fee that the Reds paid for the winger.
Fast forward to the current day and Salah is a realistic contender for this year’s Ballon d’Or.
After winning the Premier League’s PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday, the 25-year-old’s star continued to rise last night with two mercurial finishes to give Liverpool the first-half ascendancy.
Salah turned provider in the second half, terrorising his former employers and allowing the Liverpool fans to completely forget about Philippe Coutinho.
The African wideman has outscored Lionel Messi domestically this season and his unplayable style, clinical approach and movement with and without the ball are starting to mimic the Barcelona star.
As Salah is potentially set to play in a Champions League final and has this summer’s World Cup as an opportunity to impress further, the Liverpool star must be judged as one of the best players on the planet at the moment.
Roma’s tactics worked against Barcelona, failed against Liverpool
With the nature of Roma’s comeback against Barcelona in the last round, the Italian side must not be completely ruled out just yet – but the Serie A side have made it very difficult for themselves.
The Giallorossi beat the Catalan giants 3-0 in Rome by playing a high line, pressing in midfield and reverting to a three-man central defence.
Roma deployed the same tactics at Anfield but the execution was not quite right and Liverpool took full advantage.
The 3-5-2 formation system left Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi exposed on the flanks, with Salah and Sadio Mane taking full advantage of space behind a slow three-man rearguard.
Add to this the fact that Liverpool bossed the midfield battles and Eusebio di Francesco’s tactics were defunct – it was only after switching to a back four that Roma came into the game.
Lovren still the weak link and should be sold
At 5-0, the Kop believed that Liverpool had booked a place in the Champions League final but some ordinary defending allowed Roma to score two away goals to keep the tie alive.
While Virgil van Dijk’s January signature has improved the collective performance of the Reds defence, Dejan Lovren again proved that he is the weak link in a strong team.
Although the Croatian played well in the last round against City, there is a feeling that the former Southampton enforcer can make high-profile mistakes – as he has done in a red shirt plenty of times in big games.
Lovren was again culpable as Roma staged a late comeback and does not instil confidence in the Liverpool masses – Klopp’s top summer priority must be a replacement.