In Rome, we always win in Rome…

The sequence of goals can make a whole lot of difference to the way we
feel at the final whistle. A late equaliser can seem like both a
winner and a loser depending on which side you’re supporting.

In the first semifinal against Roma, had the Reds come from two goals
down to win 5-2, we’d have all been feeling on cloud-nine. As it was,
having all but booked our final place at 5-0, the loss of two late
goals was an undoubted dampener. Liverpool, as only they can, managed
to give the Italians a lifeline. It’s almost like the Liverpool way –
never make things straightforward!

What it meant was that fans were walking down Arkles Lane shaking
their heads instead of skipping gleefully over the puddles.

It didn’t seem fair in many respects, not least with the chances that
went begging, but Lovren’s mistake let in Dzeko in 81 minutes, before
a poor refereeing decision, five minutes later, saw visitors score a
second from a penalty.

Euphoria is an understatement with regards to Champions League nights
at Anfield. For the most part, on this occasion, the atmosphere was as
raucous and strident as we’ve all come to expect. One pundit on BT
called it the ‘bear-pit’. I kinda liked that!

The press certainly seemed as one about the energy and the passion,
though not sure how many journos were experiencing such a night for
the first time.

What was not in doubt against Roma was the quality of Liverpool’s
game. It was scintillating and the scribes were unanimous that Klopp’s
warriors were devastating.

This season, the regular fans have been spoilt and that, in itself,
can produce its own problems. There is always the danger that the
expectancy level is too high. Footballers are not robots, not least at
this stage of the season when a club like Liverpool is playing massive
fixtures every three and four days.

There are football supporters everywhere – not just ones of Reds’
persuasion – who would pay a tout’s ransom to watch Mo Salah simply to
be able to say they’d seen the guy just the once. Similar sentiments
applied to Luis Suarez. As for us regulars, blasé though we may have
become, we still manage to get gobsmacked when the Egyptian King
performs like he did on Tuesday night.

But for all that, the team effort is there to behold. Sometimes it
takes a video play-back hours later to discover who played a crucial
pass in the build-up. Mo has a definite telepathy with Bobby and Sadio
Mane, also Oxlane, which makes that lad’s injury all the more painful.
Trent too, sends some audacious balls into the narrow channel down the
right wing.

And so we head for Rome with two dangerous away goals to be confronted
and I don’t doubt the Italians will be a different proposition on
their own patch. However, it’s hard to look objectively and not
believe Klopp’s team won’t score at least once.

If in doubt, fall back on the decades-old song:

“In Rome, we always win in Rome!”

Mike Hopper

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