Goals, great attacking, and poor defending combine to make an enthralling UEFA Champions League game. These are all components that Roma and Liverpool provided at the Stadio Olimpico. If you thought their first leg couldn’t be topped, you were wrong. After a highly entertaining 5-2 cracker in Anfield, the two teams treated us to an epic 4-2 win for Roma in the second leg.
In the Champions League, the finest margin decides ties. In any match that doesn’t result in a win, there’s always someone to blame. Because Liverpool lost the second leg and Roma the tie, there’s blame to go all around. Here are three players who disappointed during Roma’s 4-2 win over Liverpool.
Many believe Dzeko was treated unfairly at Manchester City. To his benefit, he’s proved them right by scoring 71 goals since moving to Italy. He added one to that tally in the second leg, even though he could, scratch that, should have scored a few more. The Bosnian international attempted a staggering nine shots on goal. Only two were on target. That’s abysmal for a man of his quality, Roma needed the Bosnian to be in top form against Liverpool. He woefully underdelivered. If Edin Dzeko had been 20% more clinical in either of the two legs, Roma would be facing Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final, not Liverpool.
When one door shuts, another one opens. Nathaniel Clyne suffered a critical back injury in July. Liverpool supporters were panicking at the thought of the club spending millions on a replacement. Well, no. That was the owners. But the fans were worried who could fill the ex-Southampton player’s boots.
Jurgen Klopp wasn’t bothered. With an unimpressed, “Pfft,” he snapped his fingers and promoted an academy product to the first team for one of the most heart-warming success stories of the year. Since then, the 19-year-old has played 32 games for Liverpool’s first team. They can’t all be gems. In Rome, Alexander-Arnold put in his worst performance to date. And to be honest, it was expected.
Playing at the 72-000-seat Stadio Olimpico in the Champions League semifinals was always going to be a tall order for the youngster. Lest we forget, this is his first season as a senior player.
Roma targeted Alexander-Arnold as a weakness. Aleksandar Kolarov and Stephan El Shaarawy constantly bombarded the left flank. In a torturous 93-minute cameo, the 19-year-old was dribbled past once while misplacing 17 passes. Roma used Alexander-Arnold’s side for crossing practice and almost completed another comeback of the century.
He may have scored twice in the last five minutes but it was the Belgian’s mistake in the ninth minute that put the tie out of Roma’s reach. Before the game, it’s guaranteed Eusebio di Francesco gave his side simple instructions:
Try to get an early goal.
If an early goal can’t be accomplished, don’t concede an early goal.
Play it smart and safe.
Radja Nainggolan had different ideas. The 29-year-old played a mindless pass into the middle of the pitch. Roberto Firmino pounced instantly, then set up Sadio Mane for the opening goal. Nainggolan is known to be Roma’s catalyst for comebacks but putting the team further behind isn’t the best way to go about it. As could be seen by his body language, he knew the magnitude of his mistake. The tightness of the 7-6 aggregate score only amplifies how much Nainggolan cost his teammates on the night.