26 April 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 5-2 AS Roma

Previous Match Infographics: West Brom (a), Bournemouth (h), Manchester City [CL] (a), Everton (a), Manchester City [CL] (h), Crystal Palace (a), Watford (h), United (a), Porto (h), Newcastle (h), West Ham (h), Porto (a), Southampton (a), Tottenham (h), Huddersfield (a), Swansea (a), Manchester City (h), Everton (h), Burnley (a), Leicester (a), Swansea (h), Arsenal (a), Bournemouth (a), West Brom (h), Everton (h), Spartak Moscow (h), Brighton (a), Stoke (a), Chelsea (h), Sevilla (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Maribor (h), Huddersfield (h), Tottenham (a), Maribor (a), United (h), Newcastle (a), Spartak Moscow (a), Leicester (a), Burnley (h), Sevilla (h), Manchester City (a), Arsenal (h), Hoffenheim (h), Crystal Palace (h), Hoffenheim (a), Watford (a)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

(Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)

I am admittedly a pessimist, down to my soul and bones. So I want to focus on Roma's two late goals. Yes, yes, as against West Brom just a few days ago. Two goals that give them hope of overturning the tie, as they did in the last round. There should be no hope, ever. Whine, complain, etc.

But I can't. Not after that. Not after what Liverpool did to Roma between the 20th to 70th minutes.

That was 50 minutes of some of the best football that I have ever seen. In a Champions League semi-final. In what was one of the most important Liverpool games in the last decade.

Fearless, frightening, vicious. Raucous, rampant. And immensely enjoyable. Fun. Fun! In a Champions League semifinal!

And yes, a fair amount had to do with an absolutely suicidal game plan from Roma. Do. Not. Play. A. High. Line. Back. Three. Against. Liverpool. Just don't. It's a horrific idea. Hoffenheim, Arsenal, West Ham, City, etc. etc. etc. And now Roma.

Salah in the 3rd minute. Mané in the 28th minute. Mané in the 29th minute. Salah in the 30th minute. Salah's goal in the 45th minute. Mané's goal in the 56th minute. Firmino's goal in the 61st minute.

Every single one from Liverpool's front three getting behind of Roma's insanely high back line.

But that front three still had to do it.

Mohamed Salah scored his 42 and 43rd goals of the season and we're almost taking it for granted. And he added two assists for good measure.

Roberto Firmino scored his 27th of the season, which is the most in a Liverpool campaign by a player not named Salah or Suarez in a decade, and we're almost taking it for granted. And he added two assists for good measure.

Sadio Mané scored his 18th of the season, but he's not hit the heights of Salah or Firmino even if he is blowing away last season's totals and we're almost taking it for granted.

Liverpool's front three all scored in the same match for the eighth time this season – the third in the Champions League – and we're almost taking it for granted.

Mohamed Salah is the first player to score twice and assist twice in a Champions League semifinal, and Roberto Firmino became the second twenty minutes after him, and we're almost taking it for granted.

Liverpool scored five goals in the Champions League for the fourth time this season – in 13 games – and we're almost taking it for granted. Liverpool are only the second side ever to score five goals in a Champions League semifinal and we're almost taking it for granted.

You cannot take this side for granted. You cannot take this result for granted.

And it's not just the front three. Milner's ninth assist in the competition, now the most by one player in one campaign. Henderson absolutely everywhere. Wijnaldum coming on cold for Oxlade-Chamberlain early in the match and barely putting a foot wrong. Those two hockey assists from Alexander-Arnold, for Liverpool's third and fourth goals, knowing how to exploit the space and how to exploit Salah. Robertson nearly as creative on the other flank: the low cross for Mané's goal ruled out for offside, the clear-cut chance Wijnaldum failed to take in the 82nd minute. Both full-backs doing this while challenged by incredibly attacking wing-backs. One Roma shot between Liverpool's first and fifth goals: Schick in the 58th minute, after Liverpool had already scored three, off-target from the top of the box. Nearly shot-less for 50 minutes, as Liverpool took 17 and scored five.

Enjoy it. Football like this does not happen often. Moments like these, matches like these, have not happened often for Liverpool in the last decade or so.

Of course you worry. You worry about Roma's two late goals, both regrettable. An error from Lovren, misjudging his header on a ball over the top, then a penalty for Milner's handball that's called maybe 60% of the time. You worry about that Roma stadium and those Roma fans and Roma overturning a three-goal deficit on away goals in the last round. You worry about Oxlade-Chamberlain's injury, with Liverpool now down to three fit central midfielders.

You worry, because Liverpool has taught us to worry. I'm not saying don't worry, because I'm constitutionally incapable of not worrying, but you can't just worry. You can't think about, or expect, "old Liverpool." This is not old Liverpool. You have to also enjoy this wonder this side's capable of creating. Revel in it. Treasure it. Otherwise, what's the point?

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