Leaving the ground last Tuesday there was a disappointing undercurrent to the mass of Liverpool fans shuffling home. Not with the performance of course against Roma but with conceding two late goals when in complete charge of a game and with two feet firmly planted in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
As we got talking on the short walk to the car it was agreed that we would, of course, had taken that sort of lead before the game had started. However, it was still niggling at us slightly. There was to be no rushing home and booking for Kiev just yet, a job still needed to be done over in Rome.
A mountain to climb
As per the last round versus the Premier League champions Manchester City, I have a pretty good feeling that we’ll score at least one in the Olympic Stadium. That would leave Roma with an even tougher mountain to climb, much higher than the seven hills Rome is built on. The firepower (and form) Liverpool have at their disposal should be enough to see them home.
Neutral fans will point towards the previous round and the night Roma overcame the mighty Barcelona on an unforgettable night in the Italian capital. A 3-0 win when the I Giallorossi (Yellow and reds) really did fight like gladiators, coupled with an away goal in the Camp Nou, took them through to the semi-final.
Into the arena
It will be a hostile night for Liverpool on and off the pitch. The press, both in the UK and over in Italy, have painted a picture of brutal warfare off the pitch. For good reason, the fans have been warned about not walking to the ground, staying in large groups, etc. Let’s hope everything goes off peacefully and the Italian authorities keep everything under control.
In the stands, the Olympic Stadium will be a sea of colour, noise and smoke as the Italian’s try to rouse their heroes to an unlikely victory. It’s a stadium with a running track, which I don’t personally like, but a stadium now with a full roof that reverberates the sound within the ground.
Roma are trying to reach their first Champions League final since the unforgettable night (for Liverpool) in 1984 when Graeme Souness and co. came to the lion’s den and beat Roma on their own patch through a penalty shoot-out. That night hasn’t been easily forgotten in Rome. Revenge will be firmly focussed in their minds.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s side contains seasoned international pros such as Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and the effervescent Radja Nainggolan in midfield. It will be a night for cool heads for Roma, get out the blocks quick but an equal need for patience. A lesson they can learn from Man City in the last round, do not concede an away goal or the tie is virtually over.
A lesson learned from others failures
As for Liverpool, it’s been a surprising journey. Far from the favourites in the early rounds, they have grown in stature the further the tournament has progressed. First Porto, then a superb Man City were despatched and finally Roma at home, with that dazzling 70 minutes of attacking football. I expect Liverpool, even without Zeljko Buvac at Jurgen Klopp’s side, to be mentally tougher than Barcelona. Lionel Messi and co. turned up at the Olympic Stadium for their second leg thinking that the job had been done. Liverpool will not be allowed to fall into the same trap.
Slovenian referee Damir Skomina has been named as the man to take charge of proceedings. The bad omen for the Merseyside giants is that Skomina has officiated in the reds games three times and Liverpool have lost all three. That said, Liverpool don’t need to actually win on the night to progress.
Klopp’s team can etch their own piece of history if they can make the final and lift the trophy. It will be a triumph for the younger generation of Liverpool supporters who have heard all the stories about winning the lot from Paris down to Turkey. It will be a triumph and a reward for the wonderful attacking football we’ve had the privilege to watch this season.
Liverpool stand on the edge of greatness yet again. The job isn’t complete just yet but one foot is in Kiev. One more last, big effort is required. Run and run you mighty reds until you can’t run anymore. I can taste victory but my mind says don’t count my chickens (Kiev) just yet.