In a Champions League semi-final match.
Five of them.
Liverpool’s rambunctious victory over Roma at Anfield broke almost every rule in the book of winning elite-level European football matches. Never before has a team set itself up to play a tie at this stage of the competition at such breakneck speed, with such relentless intensity, based on an unabashed sense of superiority.
Gone are the days of tactical chess matches. Keeping it tight and hoping to nick a winner from a late attack is over. Sizing the other time up in the first-leg before taking the game to them in the second? Dead and buried.
This Liverpool team scoffs at the archetypal ways to win European Cup ties, and says instead, â€œY’know what, we’re well better than you, and we’re gonna prove it by scoring absolutely loads of goals.â€
Sheer insanity is the key to this Liverpool team’s success.
From the moment Eusebio di Francesco’s players stepped onto the pitch on Tuesday night, they were met with an unwavering energy the likes of which they will never have experienced at any other time in their careers.
This Liverpool team is chock-full of fantastic footballers, nurtured by a manager whose unique, cavalier, bizarre way of playing the game is, at this moment in time, peerless. But it is the combination of the team and crowd that is making such illustrious opponents buckle when they turn up to Anfield.
Opposition footballers are human beings, not robots. In the same way that supporters in the stands and watching at home experience the game in an emotional sense, so do they. The combination of the intensity of Liverpool’s playing style and of the home crowd backing them is simply overwhelming to all challengers.
As the goals racked up, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that the Roma line-up was composed of a group of men who had never met each other before. A gang of lads who had never kicked a football in their lives. Seasoned internationals of the highest technical quality like Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman couldn’t get the ball out of their feet. Experienced defenders were passing the ball straight to the feet of Liverpool forwards. Their heads. Had. Gone.
AS Roma simply couldn’t handle what Liverpool Football Club threw at them. They couldn’t deal with Roberto Firmino hassling them at every turn. They were powerless to stop Sadio ManÃ©’s pace running their high-line ragged. But they were also completely and utterly overwhelmed by the sound and sight of 50,000 partisan supporters crowded around them, screaming from start-to-finish. Liverpool are 10/1 to win the second leg 2-1 against AS Roma
Of course, it’s also quite helpful that the greatest footballer on the planet at the moment is playing for Liverpool.
Mohamed Salah, facing a group of players who in theory know his movement, his pace, and his talent better than any others, put in the kind of performance that will be talked about for generations to come.
The first goal is sublime. â€œJust stop him cutting on his left-â€ the defender foolishly thinks, as though that is even possible at this point, and before he knows it Salah has buried the kind of curling strike which, though it has become his trademark, remains absolutely stunning.
And then- the second. Oh my God, the second. It’s just so pristinely exquisite, isn’t it? He dinks it over the goalkeeper from twenty yards, by barely lifting the football off the ground. The whole stadium knows it’s going in as it lands and rolls gently towards the net. The seconds between it dropping and crossing the line are so pure, so perfect.
It is simply a joy to watch Salah play football. The giddiness he inspires in us all is a privilege to experience.
Liverpool have won many a European Cup semi-final at Anfield, but none quite like this. The victory over Chelsea in 2005, held up by many as the pinnacle of their football-following careers, is the one which is most regularly mentioned when people discuss the best atmosphere they’ve experienced.
But this must be a whole new level.
Before, semi-finals were about biting your nails, watching between your fingers, and praying that your teams holds on. Not anymore.
This semi-final was an absolute party for almost ninety minutes. Every single person in the stadium revelling in their team’s superiority, knowing that nothing can stop them now. Not a single ounce of nerves, just total communal ecstasy.
Worried about the two late goals Roma scored? Concerned by their comeback against Barcelona in the last round? Nervous about the increasing number of injuries in the squad?
Don’t be. It’s all going to be fine.
This Liverpool team is the greatest on the planet at this moment in time. You know it, I know it, and now AS Roma know it too.