Another Mohamed Salah masterclass helped Liverpool take control of their Champions League semi-final – but two late Roma away goals gave the Italian side a glimmer of hope for the second leg.
Liverpool, who last reached the final in 2007, repeatedly breached the visitors’ naively high defensive line and scored five times in the opening 68 minutes at a raucous Anfield.
Salah, who has now scored 43 goals since his summer move from Roma, scored twice and assisted two other goals.
He curled his first into the top corner from the edge of the box – then clipped the ball over Alisson for a second.
Salah then ran down the right and squared for Sadio Mane to make it 3-0 – before doing the same to set up Roberto Firmino.
Liverpool then became only the second team to score five goals in a Champions League semi-final match when Firmino headed in James Milner’s corner.
With his side leading 5-0, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp took off Salah – and Roma gave themselves a chance for next week’s return leg at the Stadio Olimpico.
First Edin Dzeko lashed home from Radja Nainggolan’s pass, then Diego Perotti put a penalty into the top right corner after Milner handled Nainggolan’s shot.
And Roma need only look to the last round for inspiration – they lost the first leg in Barcelona 4-1 before winning 3-0 in Italy to progress on away goals.
A repeat of the latter scoreline this time would take them into the final against Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.
Prior to Roma’s late goals, the one sour note for Liverpool was the sight of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leaving the field on a stretcher. Klopp said later the England midfielder “probably had a really bad injury”.
Salah’s greatest moment yet?
When Salah moved to Anfield last summer for £34m after two good seasons for Roma, nobody could have predicted what would follow.
The Egypt winger has scored 43 goals in 48 games for Liverpool – an average of one every 87 minutes – and is the Premier League’s top scorer.
He has netted in his past seven games – including four goals against Watford, and one in both legs of the Champions League quarter-final win over Manchester City. On Sunday, he was named Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year.
But it has all been leading up to this night at Anfield.
Roma had no answer to their former player, who opened the scoring off the underside of the bar after Jordan Henderson won the ball from Dzeko, and Mane and Firmino combined to find Salah.
His second came when he found Firmino from the halfway line, then ran forward to latch onto his team-mate’s pass before lifting the ball over Roma keeper Alisson, considered one of the best in the world. He did not celebrate either goal.
Salah then took advantage of Roma’s high defending to get in down the right, perhaps from an offside position, before finding the previously wasteful Mane as Liverpool started to cruise.
He then rolled a ball across the six-yard box for Firmino to score.
With the tie seemingly won, Salah came off to a standing ovation when he was replaced by Danny Ings with 15 minutes left.
But he might need to score again in Rome after the visitors’ late rally.