ROME – Liverpool reached the Champions League final after riding its luck to contain a fired-up AS Roma in a 4-2 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night that sent them through 7-6 on aggregate.
The five-time European champion, whichwill face holder Real Madrid in the May 26 final, suffered a nerve-shredding second half as the Italians pinned them back and scored twice late on through Radja Nainggolan.
Nainggolan’s second, which came from a stoppage-time penalty, moved Roma to within one goal of forcing extra time, but Liverpool, which clinched the last of its titles in 2005, held on to reach its eighth European Cup final.
It was far from its devastating attacking best, however, and a nervy defensive display saw it lose its first match in this season’s competition, despite cruising in the first half having twice taken the lead.
Sadio Mane was the most potent attacking threat for the visitors and put them ahead after nine minutes, but a bizarre own goal by James Milner leveled for Roma.
A Georginio Wijnaldum header put Liverpool back in front but Roma, which overturned a three-goal deficit to beat Barcelona in the last round, was given renewed belief when Edin Dzeko fired past Loris Karius early in the second half.
Nainggolan drilled in from distance after 86 minutes to make it 3-2 and smashed home from the spot, but it was too late for the Italian side which lost the first leg of the semifinal 5-2 in Liverpool.
“We are deserved finalists 100 percent,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. “You don’t come without luck. We needed it only one time tonight.
“The boys deserve it, the character they showed, the football they showed — it was just crazy. I forgot the score. It was 7-6 right? Unbelievable.”
Liverpool’s task was seemingly straightforward — avoid suffering a three-goal defeat and a place in the final in Kiev was set.
The 5-2 first-leg victory at Anfield was a scoreline that had never been overturned in the competition’s history, but Barcelona’s shock defeat in the same stadium had served as a warning against complacency.
The crowd certainly seemed to believe a repeat result was possible and the noise levels increased as Liverpool was pushed back in the opening moments.
Yet Roma’s spirits were dampened when Liverpool took the lead, capitalizing on a catastrophic mistake with a typically clinical counter.
Roma midfielder Nainggolan played a suicidal square ball that was pounced on by Roberto Firmino, who drove forward and played it through to Mane who buried his left-footed finish past Roma’s Brazilian ‘keeper Alisson.
That was the first goal Roma had conceded at home in the competition this season, but it was only behind for six minutes thanks to a calamitous own goal.
Dejan Lovren tried to clear a ball into the area but smashed his effort straight into the face of Milner and it ricocheted past Karius.
The home fans rediscovered their voice, but their renewed spirits lasted only another 10 minutes before Liverpool retook the lead.
The hosts failed to clear a corner and the ball was headed back by Dzeko into the path of Wijnaldum, who nodded past Alisson.
Roma equalized for the second time seven minutes after the break, as Stephan El Shaarawy’s shot was pushed tamely into the path of Dzeko by Karius and the Bosnian rifled his finish past the German ‘keeper.
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