Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, 2nd right, celebrates with his teammates their side’s third goal during the Champions League semifinal, first leg match against AS Roma. (Supplied: AP)
Mohamed Salah produced two world-class finishes and set up goals for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to lead Liverpool to a 5-2 win over former club Roma this morning, leaving the English team in sight of the Champions League final.
Salah’s display was as exquisite as Roma’s defending was naive, with Liverpool scoring all of its goals in a breathtaking 33-minute spell either side of half-time amid a cauldron of noise at Anfield.
The Italian side came back from a 4-1 first-leg loss to Barcelona in the quarter-finals, and consolation goals in the final nine minutes from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti has given them a similar deficit to overcome in the second leg in Rome earlier this week.
In the latest virtuoso performance of his stunning first season at Liverpool, Salah curled a shot into the top corner in the 36th minute and doubled the lead in the 45th with a dinked finish that is fast becoming his trademark.
He is now on 43 goals for the season in all competitions, with potentially five games left.
“Outstanding, pretty much undefendable — he is playing a season that is not normal,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said of Salah.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, right, scores his side’s fourth goal on the back of a Salah assist.
The Egypt forward wasn’t finished there, taking advantage of Roma’s high defensive line to provide right-wing crosses for Mane and Firmino to score almost identical goals in the 56th and 61st minutes, respectively.
Firmino glanced home a header from James Milner’s corner in the 69th to leave Roma’s players on the floor — literally, in the case of distressed goalkeeper Alisson.
Liverpool moved onto 38 goals for this season’s competition — 11 more than any other team — but cannot begin preparing for the final in Kiev on May 26 quite yet.
Dzeko chested down a long pass to make it 5-1 in the 81st and when Milner handled a shot from Radja Nainggolan, Perotti converted the penalty in the 89th.
“The tie is not over, we have already proven that against Barcelona,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said.
“Whoever doesn’t believe in a comeback should stay home.
“That applies to the fans in the stands as well.”
“If any of my players think Roma doesn’t have enough to come back, they will not play,” Klopp said.
Bayern Munich plays Real Madrid in the other semi-final, with the first leg in Germany tomorrow morning.
Roma’s Edin Dzeko, centre, reacts to his team’s defeat at Anfield. (Supplied: AP/Dave Thompson)
Roma knows all about Salah, who scored 15 goals and set up 11 more in the second of his two seasons at the Italian club before joining Liverpool for 42 million euros (then $47 million) in June.
He has obliterating those figures at Anfield this season. His double saw him surge past Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42 goals for Manchester United in the 2007-08 season, for example.
Salah won English soccer’s Player of the Year award on Sunday. At this rate, the Ballon D’Or could be his next year.