Rome (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp warned Liverpool they need to improve to match holders Real Madrid after riding their luck to advance to the Champions League final 7-6 on aggregate despite losing 4-2 in Rome.
Even goalscorer Sadio Mane and stars Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were told they weren’t at their best as Liverpool held on to avoid another Roma miracle comeback in the Stadio Olimpico.
“It’s the first time we were not really as good as we can be. We needed luck and that is what we had,” said the Liverpool manager.
“We can play much better, so Sadio – what a game, scored one goal, was really involved in good situations.
“But all the counter-attacks, we all know Mo (Salah), Bobby (Firmino) and Sadio can do it better. We were not patient enough.
“There is enough space for improvement and that’s no problem.
“We have to play much better, the good news is we can play much better.”
Liverpool were 90 minutes away from their eighth European final and first in 11 years as they held a 5-2 advantage over Roma after the first leg of their semi-final tie.
The five-time winners were 2-1 up at the break thanks to Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum but Roma roared back to score three in the second half, including a controversial penalty.
But Liverpool held in a breathless finale to avoid the fate of Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico last month. Barcelona had won the quarter-final first leg 4-1 only to lose out on away goals when Roma won the second leg 3-0.
The final in Kiev on May 26 will see Klopp target his first trophy since taking over in October 2015.
“Going to a final is really nice – I did it a few times – but winning it is even nicer. We will be ready,” said the German.
“They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood.”
– ‘On fire’ –
Klopp believes his side have been gaining momentum since coming through a two-legged playoff after finishing fourth in the 2016-2017 Premier League.
“You cannot plan a Champions League final if you are not Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
“They are constantly in the last four; going there is not normal for them but much more normal than it is for us.
“You cannot be more experienced in the competition than Real Madrid,” he added of the Spaniards who have won three titles in the past five years.
“I think pretty much 80 percent of their team played in all these finals – four times in the past five years and they are still together.
“So if you talk about experience, they are experienced and we are not. But we will be really on fire, you can imagine.”
Dutch midfielder Wijnaldum, who scored his first away goal in three years, added: “The Champions League is the biggest competition you can play at club level. We’re desperate to win it.”
The wild celebrations among the 5,000 visiting Liverpool supporters was restrained by tight security after Reds fan Sean Cox was attacked outside Anfield Stadium before the first leg.
Many supporters choose not to wear their red jerseys outside the stadium, with celebrations low-key in the Italian capital.
Roma fans paid tribute to Liverpool-born toddler Alfie Evans who died last week, following a long legal battle and a campaign by the parents that drew support from Pope Francis and in Italy.
“Bye little Alfie, rest among the angels,” read one banner unfurled by Italian fans in the stands.