herald

Sunday 22 July 2018

Reds march on but defence is still a worry

Liverpool's James Milner celebrates at the end of the game. Photo: REUTERS
Liverpool's James Milner celebrates at the end of the game. Photo: REUTERS

So it turns out that Rome wasn't built in a day, but it was built on the flimsiest of foundations.

And that's a large part of the reason why Liverpool are heading for Kiev in 23 days' time.

All of that tradition and history in the Italian game of great defenders, brilliant tacticians and unbeatable full-backs, and yet Roma put on the sort of defensive horror show which seems to be the opposite of their footballing DNA.

Luckily for Liverpool, they were able to profit. Unluckily for Liverpool, they are just as culpable, just as capable, of calamitous stuff at the back.

Just as Tuesday's semi-final came and went without a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo or Robert Lewandowski, so last night the football world was denied a goal by Mo Salah.

Instead we got one from James Miler. Set up by Dejan Lovren. Past their own 'keeper.

It was a night that won't be remembered as one for the ages but a night when Jurgen Klopp's side, themselves guilty of defensive howlers when the mood takes them (and the mood did take them on 52 minutes when Edin Dzeko waltzed past Lovren to score, and make it 2-2 on the night), took full advantage of those gaping holes in the Roma back line.

'Pool fans watching the semi-final played 24 hours earlier remarked that Real Madrid's less-than-dazzling display filled those who support Liverpool full of confidence that Real were not some bronzed god, a group of footballing untouchables who could not be defeated, but instead had chinks in their armour.

Thing is, Roma had chinks across their side and so do Liverpool, as evidenced by Roma's ability to score six times in this tie.

European Cup semi-finals are not supposed to finish with aggregate scorelines of 7-6. For all the expensively-assembled quality on the field, the final itself could be a case of Next Goal The Winner, just as it was in the school yard. Ronaldo could score three then sit back and watch Salah do the same.

On the basis of last night, Lovren could score the winner or a killer own goal. The great defenders are now the great pretenders.

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