It’s that time of the year. In arguably the biggest week in European football, four teams play in four games to see who will meet in the Champions League final. Granted, there’s quite a bit of red on display this year, but without further ado, let’s see how the matches went.
Liverpool 5-2 Roma
Liverpool: From the 28th minute to the 75th minute, they were perfect. All it took was one quick counter attack, and even though Sadio Mané failed to hit the target, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp used the moment to bring the Anfield crowd to life. Mohamed Salah scored two against his old team before halftime, and Mané and Roberto Firmino compounded on Roma’s misery with three more goals in the second half. Both Salah and Firmino finished with two goals and two assists each, and when Klopp brought Salah off in the 75th minute, Liverpool appeared to be on cruise control for the final. What happened next was typical Liverpool: Dejan Lovren was caught napping in the 81st minute, and then James Milner, who had been stellar in the midfield all night, kept his arm out in the box to concede a penalty. 5-2 seems safe, but we saw this Roma team erase a three goal deficit against Barcelona. If Liverpool continue to concede late goals (they conceded two at the death against bottom-feeder West Brom on the weekend), they could be in trouble.
Roma: Manager Eusebio Di Francesco tried to go with three in the back again, but unlike the success he found against Barcelona, Liverpool were all over his team. Despite Aleksandar Kolarov’s thunderbolt that goalkeeper Loris Karius only just touched onto the bar, Liverpool showed the danger they posed to Roma by the way Firmino was able to easily release Mane in the 28th minute. The first goal was lost far too easily in the midfield, and then Kostas Manolas inexplicably stood off his old teammate and allowed space for the shot. Juan Jesus couldn’t handle the movement of Salah, and the midfield was run ragged as Liverpool dominated. But just as they did against Barcelona, Roma battled to the final whistle and managed to steal two away goals, one by Edin Džeko and the other a penalty by Diego Perotti. It could be better, but it could also be much worse.
Prediction: Liverpool advances 5-4 on aggregate. Roma are good at home, but Liverpool can’t be stupid enough to let Roma completely dictate the match after they saw Barcelona blow a three-goal lead in the quarterfinals, can they?
Second leg: Wednesday, May 2. Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Bayern Munich 1-2 Real Madrid
Bayern: The night could not have gone any worse. It took just eight minutes for Arjen Robben to leave injured, and after the 34th minute, Bayern lost another starter in Jerome Boateng, adding to an injury list that already includes Arturo Vidal, David Alaba, and Manuel Neuer. Still, at that point, Bayern held a 1-0 advantage after Joshua Kimmich fired a shot past Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas. But the Bavarians conceded twice against the run of play, and if not for a handball, could’ve gone to Madrid down 3-1 on aggregate. Franck Ribery missed three golden opportunities to score in the match and should have taken at least one. Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller crashed into each other two yards from goal when all they needed was a tap in. If Bayern goes out of the Champions League in a close tie, they’ll look back at this first leg and rue the missed chances.
Real: They did well to grind out a win when they were second best on the night. Navas was caught cheating to his far post for Kimmich’s goal, but made up for the mistake with a stellar reaction save from one of Ribery’s chances. Otherwise, Marcelo’s first-time volley was a thing of beauty, and Marco Asensio’s goal came from a perfectly executed counterattack with Lucas Vázquez. There’s just something about Real and this competition, as they continue to find ways to wriggle out of dire situations. Even though Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal streak came to an end (although he still drilled a left-footed volley after controlling the ball with his arm), Real will be happy with the result.
Prediction: Real advances 5-3 on aggregate after hitting Bayern on the break at home.
Second leg: Tuesday, May 1. Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid