Liverpool sees off Roma, advances to Champions League final

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane races past Roma’s Radja Nainggolan in their Champions League semifinal second leg. (Reuters)
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane races past Roma’s Radja Nainggolan in their Champions League semifinal second leg. (Reuters)

Liverpool is back. Back where it belongs. Back in the Champions League final after an 11-year absence.

The most successful English team in the history of Europe’s top club competition secured its spot in a Champions League final for the first time since 2007 with a 7-6 aggregate victory over Roma. The Reds booked their trip to Kiev for a showdown with Real Madrid via a 4-2 second-leg loss in Rome on Wednesday.

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Riding a 5-2 first-leg lead, they were never really troubled on the night – much less so than the final score indicates. They led 1-0 and 2-1, and maintained a three-goal aggregate lead into the last five minutes of the 90.

They stayed true to their identity, counterattacking without hesitation. They pounced on a Roma giveaway in the ninth minute, and extended their aggregate lead to four through Sadio Mane:

A fluky James Milner own goal gave Roma something resembling hope. Dejan Lovren’s clearance ricocheted off the English midfielder’s face and floated into the back of the net.

But Liverpool never wavered. It was never tempted to curl up into a ball and defend. The result was an intermittent flow of half-chances for the hosts, but never the type of barrage that would have put Liverpool’s progression to the final in doubt.

Giorginio Wijnaldum effectively sealed the deal on 25 minutes. Virgil van Dijk’s aerial challenge on Edin Dzeko forced an errant header, and Wijnaldum – in for the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – was in the right place at the right time to finish Roma off:

Dzeko made up for the gift with a second-half goal that pulled Roma back to within three.

But the Italians never cut their deficit to two until the final five minutes. That’s when Radja Nainggolan spanked a long-range shot off the inside of the post.

But his celebration, or lack thereof, was telling. A replica of the quarterfinal miracle never looked to be a part of the script. Nainggolan got Roma a fourth with the second-to-last kick of the game from the penalty spot, but there was never time for an equalizer.

There will be a few moments, a few questionable refereeing decisions that Roma will rue. There was Van Dijk’s nudge on Dzeko. There were two penalty appeals, one thrown out by an incorrect offside flag, the other ignored.

But the semifinal tie had been won eight days earlier. Roma’s naive gameplan and Liverpool’s ruthless attack had decided it. And now the Reds have their date – May 26 – with Madrid.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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