Roma 4-2 Liverpool (6-7agg): Reds book final against Real

Sadio Mane gives Liverpool a ninth-minute lead in Rome.
Sadio Mane gives Liverpool a ninth-minute lead in Rome.
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Liverpool set up a repeat of their 1981 meeting against Real Madrid despite a first Champions League defeat of the season at the Stadio Olimpico.

A chaotic 4-2 semi-final second-leg loss to Roma saw Liverpool progress 7-6 on aggregate, with victory secured thanks to Sadio Mane’s 19th goal of the season and the rare sight of Georginio Wijnaldum’s first away goal in almost three years.

A fortuitous own goal by James Milner in between had put the hosts back in the game, while Edin Dzeko’s strike shortly after half-time ensured the Reds endured a testing conclusion, but two late goals for Radja Nainngolan – including a penalty with the last kick of the game – came too late for Roma.

Liverpool move on from defeating the same opponents against whom they won their fourth European Cup – in this very stadium in 1984 – to facing the club they beat 37 years ago for their third. Given the way they have taken teams apart in this competition, a sixth triumph in Kiev is realistic,
although whether their defending can cope against Real is open to question.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are smashing all kinds of records this season and another one fell as they reached 46 goals in 14 Champions League matches (including qualifiers), eclipsing the previous best set by Barcelona (in 16 games) in 1999-2000.

A great deal of that is owed to their front three of Mohamed Salah (10), Roberto Firmino (10) and Sadio Mane (nine), now the highest scoring club trio in a single Champions League season after overtaking Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, who scored 28 in 2013-14.

It was Mane’s turn to star on the night Liverpool booked their first Champions League final place in 11 years and their eighth in the competition.

Having survived a scare when Alessandro Florenzi fired a long-range shot wide, Mane struck the first blow to severely damage Roma’s hopes of clawing back a 5-2 first-leg deficit. Naingollan squandered possession in midfield and Jordan Henderson fed Firmino, who teed up his team-mate for a left-footed finish: the first goal conceded by Roma at home in the Champions League this season.

Roma were handed a lifeline when Dejan Lovren’s clearance hit Milner’s head and rebounded into the net. Roma sensed their chance but that was taken away from them by a second away goal in the 25th minute, cancelling out the only slight advantage the Serie A side had coming into the tie.

Alisson turned Mane’s shot for a corner after Andrew Robertson’s driving run to the byline and Wijnaldum, pictured left, headed home.

Stephan El Shaarawy offered Roma hope as he had a shot deflected onto the post and a penalty shout against Trent Alexander-Arnold was turned down but, when 
Dzeko fired home a badly-directed punch from Karius, Roma required three in 38 minutes to force extra-time.

Alexander-Arnold appeared to get away with a handball against El Shaarawy but Liverpool were hanging on even before Nainggolan’s 86th-minute drilled effort off the post set nerves jangling, with the midfielder then converting a penalty after substitute 
Ragnar Klavan’s handball.