Fri, May 04, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Liverpool advance to European final

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:Coach Juergen Klopp said his side can and would play better to challenge 12-time champions Real Madrid for the Champions League title


Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum heads in a goal in their UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Liverpool held off a spirited AS Roma fightback to reach the UEFA Champions League final 7-6 on aggregate, despite losing a hectic semi-final second leg in Rome on Wednesday.

Juergen Klopp’s side are to play defending champions Real Madrid in Kiev on May 26 after qualifying for their eighth European Cup final and first since 2007.

The 4-2 defeat on Wednesday in the Italian capital tested Liverpool’s nerves, but they rarely looked in danger of losing the tie.

First-half goals from Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum put Liverpool in control as Roma conceded their first goals in the Stadio Olimpico during this European campaign.

Despite Radja Nainggolan bagging two goals for Roma in the final eight minutes — the second from the penalty spot — there was to be no second miracle comeback for the Italian side after last month’s 3-0 win over Barcelona in Rome.

It was another bitter defeat for Roma, who lost the 1984 European Cup final to Liverpool on penalties in the same stadium.

“It’s the first time we weren’t really as good as we can be. We needed luck and that is what we got,” Klopp said. “7-6 on aggregate sounds crazy, because it is crazy. We came in as qualifiers and now we’re in the final and will go to Kiev.”

“Roma are strong, we had them where we wanted, as they were wild, ran the risks and we went 2-1 up. All good, but then we didn’t do enough on the counter, we didn’t use the space that they gave us and we lost the game after going 1-0 up already,” he said.

Klopp said he was confident Liverpool could threaten 12-time winners Madrid in the final.

“We have to play much better than tonight, the good news is we can play much better than tonight,” he said.

Roma threatened early with Alessandro Florenzi sending the ball wide in the opening minutes, but the hosts paid for woeful defending, giving Klopp’s side space to gain an early advantage.

Senegalese forward Mane got Liverpool off to a dream start after just nine minutes to the horror of the home fans.

A Nainggolan howler in midfield gave Roberto Firmino the opportunity to barge through, delivering the ball to an unmarked Mane who left Roma goalkeeper Alisson with no chance.

However, six minutes later Roma got the equalizer when Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren’s attempt to clear a Stephan El Shaarawy header toward Dzeko across goal bounced off James Milner’s head, flying past Loris Karius and into the Liverpool goal.

Liverpool’s ticket to the final in Kiev looked well and truly booked after 25 minutes when Wijnaldum nodded in.

Alisson denied Mane, but from the resulting corner Dzeko’s attempt to clear fell to the waiting Dutchman and he made no mistake.

El Shaarawy rattled the post on 35 minutes, with Florenzi also firing wide, and Lorenzo Pellegrini showed how not to take a free-kick, which was way off the mark.

Dzeko broke through seven minutes into the second half with the equalizer after Karius cleared the ball straight into the path of the Bosnian, who fired in his eighth goal in 12 European matches.

In a desperate scramble by Roma in front of goal four minutes from time, Nainggolan made up for his earlier blunders when he drilled a low shot into the bottom-right corner from a distance for his first Champions League goal.

The Belgian midfielder added a second three minutes into injury-time from a penalty awarded for a bitterly contested handball by substitute Ragnar Klavan, firing into the roof of the net.

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