Rome (AFP) – After Roma scored two late goals in the 5-2 defeat against a Mohamed Salah-inspired Liverpool on Tuesday, the Italian club’s sporting director, Monchi, took a deep breath and summed up the hope they had given his side.
“We were dead, but we have found a little bit of life again,” he told reporters.
Goals from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti, the latter via a penalty, in the final 10 minutes at Anfield gave the Italians something to cling to ahead of next week’s Champions League semi-final second leg in Rome.
Now Eusebio Di Francesco’s side have the chance to show that miracles do not only happen once, as they look to repeat their spectacular comeback against Barcelona in the quarter-finals.
Having lost 4-1 in the first leg against Lionel Messi and co, Roma triumphed 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico to go through on away goals.
A repeat scoreline, another “rimonta”, and Roma would be through to a first European Cup final since 1984.
“We have to try, for ourselves and for all those who love Roma,” said captain Daniele De Rossi on Tuesday.
“Against Barca, we were unlucky in the first leg, with little details going against us. Here we started well but then we really suffered against their pace.”
Liverpool’s attack of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino tore Roma apart, exposing Di Francesco’s decision to go with a three-man defence.
“Fortunately we got a reaction. That gives some meaning to the second leg,” Di Francesco said afterwards.
Salah and Firmino both scored twice for the Reds either side of a Mane strike as Liverpool found themselves 5-0 up after 69 minutes.
That trio has scored 88 goals between them this season, and the biggest problem facing Roma in next week’s return will be not conceding.
“We need to take this little percentage of a chance to try to do what we did against Barcelona,” said Monchi, the feted Spaniard who previously did a wonderful job as sporting director at Sevilla.
“But they know we have already done it, they will be ready.”
However, he added: “At the Olimpico, every minute is long.”
Because, as well as an atmosphere that should rival that of Anfield on Tuesday, Roma also boast a superb record at the Stadio Olimpico in Europe this season — they are yet to concede a goal at home in the Champions League.
“We know we can score goals but we have to do it there and we must try not to concede because that will give them more confidence,” admitted Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum.
If Roma can be more robust defensively, they can also point to a positive start at Anfield, when Aleksandar Kolarov hit the bar from range, and their strong finish to the game.
Dzeko will have an important role to play, too.
The Bosnian has scored in each of his last four Champions League games and has 21 in total this season — not quite as prolific as Salah, but not bad.
Apart from that there is not much for Roma to cling to. Except for the fact they have pulled off such a comeback before this season.