Mohamed Salah soared as Liverpool secured a memorable Champions League semi-final win, but boss Jurgen Klopp was “not flying mood-wise” after two late away goals compounded a serious-looking injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Anfield bore witness to a final-four encounter to savour as the newly-crowned PFA Player of the Year underlined his status as one of the world’s best with a virtuoso display against his former club.
Salah stole the show in Liverpool’s first Champions League semi-final for a decade, following up an exquisite opener with a delicate chip and second-half assists for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
The latter grabbed another before the Egyptian magician was taken off, with Edin Dzeko and substitute Diego Perotti scoring away goals to cut Liverpool’s first-leg win to 5-2 and give Roma hope ahead of next week’s return leg.
“I see in your faces maybe you are a little bit surprised that I am not flying mood-wise, but we lost a fantastic player tonight and that’s not good news,” Klopp said, having seen midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain go off with a “really bad” suspected knee injury.
“So, I am not really in the mood to talk about specific, fantastic things.
“We have to do a job again at Rome. That’s no problem, we expected that before, so we will go there and play as good as possible for us.
“Since when I arrived, Liverpool always has obviously to take the slightly more difficult way and that’s again like this. But at the end, very often, Liverpool still succeeded and that’s what we try with all we have.
“(It was a) very positive result tonight. Not as positive as possible because of the performance, but very positive.
“And if one of my players doesn’t think that Rome will try to come back, he will not play. I would like to say that, but I don’t have enough (available) so he’d probably even play anyway.”
Klopp cut a largely frustrated figure in a lengthy post-match press conference, where questions over man-of-the-match Salah’s place in the world pecking order appeared to grate.
“He is in outstandingly good shape, world-class shape,” the German said. “100 per cent. That’s good.
“To be the best in the world, you need to do it over a longer period, I think. There are a few others that are not too bad. He is a fantastic player. I am really happy to have him.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 24, 2018
Salah could soon have the chance to prove his worth in a Champions League final, although Roma are dreaming of a comeback akin to their quarter-final heroics against Barcelona.
Head coach Eusebio Di Francesco said: “Well, I think we deserved to score those two goals. This team proved to have a soul.
“What I didn’t like was when we gave up midway through the second half. We had a good approach to the game in the first 20 to 25 minutes, then we started losing too many duels in midfield.
“And, you know, football is not a matter of systems of play, it is a matter of individual duels and if you lose them you start letting in goals.
“Four as we did at the Camp Nou, but with a different approach, and here we let in five and it could have been even more at one stage.
“As you know, hope is still there. We don’t need miracles, we just need to believe in what we do against a quality team, and a different team than Barcelona. Our fans will be behind us, supporting throughout.”
Jurgen Klopp believes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has suffered a season-ending injury, ruling him out of Liverpool‘s Champions League tilt and perhaps also England’s World Cup squad.
The 24-year-old has kicked on impressively since switching Arsenal for Anfield last summer.
Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a superb goal in the home quarter-final defeat of Manchester City, but the midfielder’s Champions League dreams looked to have come to an end at the semi-final stage.
The England international left on a stretcher with a suspected knee injury, holding his head in his hands with what Klopp believes is “probably a really bad injury”.
Asked if he is talking about his season being over, the Liverpool boss said: “Yeah, it looks like this, unfortunately.
“We don’t know what exactly, but all the medical department is quite concerned without a scan, then you can imagine it is difficult.
“The season is not that long any more, so it doesn’t look good.
“I am a very positive person and (hope) it only feels bad but it is not that bad.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain started both of England’s friendlies last month and looked set to be included in Gareth Southgate’s squad heading to Russia.
The Three Lions boss will announce his group shortly after the final round of Premier League fixtures.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was selected for the 2014 World Cup but was unable to feature due to a knee issue sustained in a warm-up friendly against Ecuador.
Merseyside Police posted a message on Tuesday evening, confirming an incident had taken place and appealing for video footage.
A statement read: “We are investigating a Serious assault of a man outside the Albert pub on Walton Breck Rd at about 19.35.
“Officers are appealing to anyone with information, or mobile phone footage to contact our social media desk via twitter @MerPolCC or Facebook Merseyside Police CC.”
There were clashes between Liverpool and Roma supporters shortly before kick-off.
Around 80 Roma fans are thought to have used a side road to reach an area populated by Liverpool supporters just outside their Anfield stadium.
One man was seen motionless on the road and BBC Sport footage showed another fan carrying a hammer amid reports Roma supporters used belts as weapons.
Sunday Times Football correspondent Jonathan Northcroft tweeted: “Roma fans have just attacked Liverpool supporters with belts, outside the Albert. One guy down getting treatment.
“The Roma group came out of Venmore Street, and attack was sudden.”