Andy Hunter at Stadio Olimpico
A beaming Jürgen Klopp told his Liverpool side they must go and finish the job in Kiev by winning the Champions League after surviving their Roma scare. Liverpool were beaten 4-2 at Stadio Olimpico, their first defeat in Rome, but advanced 7-6 on aggregate to the final where they will face Real Madrid.
And the Liverpool manager warned the holders that his team will be “on fire” in Ukraine having weathered another Roma recovery in the second leg of the semi-final. Klopp, who re-emerged from the tunnel to celebrate with the 5,000 delirious away fans half an hour after the final whistle, admitted his team had suffered and under-performed in the Italian capital. Not that he cared. Having guided Liverpool from the Champions League qualifiers to their eighth European Cup final appearance Klopp insisted his only focus was on ending a run of near-misses in finals and Real’s hold on the trophy on 26 May.
“We were in a League Cup final and didn’t win it,” the Liverpool manager said. “People don’t tell me in the street since then: ‘Thank you for bringing us to the final.’ We were in the Europa League final too. Nobody tells me thank you. I see no trophies after these games. They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood. That’s a pity, but that’s the game. There’s still a job to do.
“Going to a final is really nice but winning is even nicer. We will be ready but it is Real Madrid. You cannot be more experienced in this competition than Real Madrid. I think 80% of their team played all these finals. They are four times in the last five years and still together. They are experienced, we are not, but we will be really on fire.”
Klopp joined his players in prolonged celebrations with the Liverpool supporters at the Stadio Olimpico. He later came back out to continue the revelry alone. He explained: “Seeing all these happy faces is the best thing that football can do. These people followed us all over Europe, come to Anfield, create an exceptional atmosphere, and we all know how big the desire is to come back on the winning track. They had such a big part in the season so far so if they want to see me, they can see me, no problem.”
The Liverpool manager said his team were made to suffer by Roma because they did not capitalise on several counterattacks. “A big compliment for Roma,” added Klopp. “What a performance, what a comeback, what a great football game. In the high-intense moments we had brilliant counterattacks but not enough to finish them. There was a few penalty situations but I didn’t see them back so far. It was first time we were not as good as we can be.
“We needed luck, that’s what we had, and over the whole campaign it’s deserved. It would have been deserved for Roma too. For both teams it would have been crazy to play extra time. So it was 7-6 on aggregate, which sounds crazy because it is crazy.
“We came as a qualifier and are now in a final. I’m really happy for the boys, the club, the fans. It’s been a fantastic ride so far; now we go to Kiev, which sounds crazy but it’s the truth. We will go to Kiev.”
The Roma president, James Pallotta, was livid with the Slovenian referee Damir Skomina, insisting his refusal to award a penalty for handball by Trent Alexander-Arnold or dismiss Loris Karius for a foul on Edin Dzeko made the introduction of VAR an imperative in the Champions League.
Pallotta said: “It is very clear VAR is needed in the Champions League because you just can’t let stuff like this happen. El Shaarawy potentially [in]the 49th minute wasn’t offside and he [Dzeko] gets taken down by the goalie, the 63rd minute was a handball that was obvious to everyone probably in the world except people on the pitch, the 67th minute [Patrik] Schick gets taken down in the box.
“I know it is difficult to ref but it is really embarrassing that we lose on aggregate like that. By the way, it should have been a red card which would have been 10 men in the 63rd minute. Liverpool are a great team, congratulations going forward, but if they don’t get VAR in the Champions League, stuff like this is an absolute joke,” Pallotta said.