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Liverpool v Roma

Sensational Salah takes Roma apart as Liverpool put one foot in Champions League final

6:51 am AEST 25/4/18
Mohamed Salah, Liverpool
The brilliant Egyptian scored two and made two against his former club as Liverpool blew Roma away in their semi-final first leg at Anfield

“I don’t know what it is but I love it,” read the banner on The Kop. It couldn’t be any more apt. 

Nobody knows what this is, this incredible, unstoppable train. Mohamed Salah is leading Liverpool’s latest European charge in the most fabulous, thrilling fashion. Whatever this is, Reds fans love it.

It’s ironic that the song the Kop serenades its Egyptian king with is to the tune of ‘Sit Down’. Because from the moment he arrived on Merseyside, all Salah has done is get people on their feet. On their feet and applauding. 

On their feet and believing.

There are hot streaks and then there are hot streaks. This shows no sign of slowing down. Salah is threatening to take Liverpool all the way to glory.

He’s already got them with a foot-and-a-half in the Champions League final after yet another extraordinary performance on yet another extraordinary Anfield night. Entertainment? You get your money’s worth with Liverpool, that’s for sure.

You can sometimes think you’ve seen it all in football. You’ve not seen many things like Salah. Enjoy him, appreciate him, savour him. He is a treat for the eyes and for the mind.

Not if you’re of a Roma persuasion, of course. The Italians know all about him, but stop him? They didn’t even get close. When the fourth official held up the board 15 minutes from time it felt like an act of mercy from Jurgen Klopp.

'Sorry lads, you’ve suffered enough, have quarter of an hour of Danny Ings instead.'

The Serie A side came on strong late, but the damage was well and truly done by then. Salah’s two first-half goals were added to by two second-half assists. There were flicks and tricks, touches of genius and runs to spread terror among defenders. It was like a video game at times - being played on ‘beginner’ mode.

Roma, bewildered, had no answer to their former star’s brilliance. They knew he was good when he left Italy, but this good? Monchi, their sporting director, is known for his genius in the transfer market. He’ll never live down the fact he only got £36.9 million for Salah. Liverpool robbed him blind. They can take the decimal point out now they want - it still wouldn't be enough.

That’s 43 goals now for the season, if you are still counting. He’s four shy of Ian Rush’s all-time Liverpool record for a single campaign. Rush was in the director’s box for this; like the rest of us, he could do nothing but marvel at what he was seeing. His smile, Kenny Dalglish's smile, Gerard Houllier's look of disbelief; they are the images which define this game.

Salah’s first was a gem, a curling left-footed effort which sailed beyond Alisson, the Roma goalkeeper, and into the net via the underside of the bar. Think Arjen Robben, only better. Majestic, audacious, devastating. Unstoppable.

His second was different, though no less brilliant. Racing onto a through pass from Roberto Firmino – who was fantastic on the night – Salah burnt off his former team-mates, sat Alisson down and delivered the killer blow, a subtle dinked finish which gave Anfield time to savour his genius. Clinical.

Roma had arrived with a three-man defence and a boisterous away following, but as one crumbled, the other swiftly quietened. At times it felt like Eusebio Di Francesco’s side had given up, and the manager said so himself. Salah laid on goals for Sadio Mane and Firmino after half-time, having been given an absurd amount of space down the Liverpool right. Juan Jesus, the left-sided centre-back, will be having nightmares about that beard for weeks to come. We won't be seeing him in the return leg, surely?

Firmino added a fifth goal with a firm header from a corner, but Liverpool made life more difficult than it needed to be with the concession of two late away goals, to Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti. Their sloppiness means they won’t be able to relax in Italy in a week’s time.

Well, until Salah scores and puts the tie to bed, that is. Because he will. He can’t stop.

I don’t know what it is, but Liverpool love it. They have every right to.