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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Liverpool hold off brave Roma to reach Champions League final

The five-times European champions, who will face holders Real Madrid in the May 26 final

Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum, left, and Virgil Van Dijk celebrate at the end of the Champions League semi-final against Roma. AP/Alessandra Tarantino
Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum, left, and Virgil Van Dijk celebrate at the end of the Champions League semi-final against Roma. AP/Alessandra Tarantino

Liverpool reached the Champions League final after riding their luck to contain a fired-up AS Roma in a 4-2 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday that sent them through 7-6 on aggregate.

The five-times European champions, who will face holders Real Madrid in the May 26 final, twice took the lead but were forced to hang on in the second half as Roma created chances before Radja Nainggolan's two late goals put them ahead on the night.

Liverpool's Sadio Mane was their most potent attacking threat and gave them the lead after nine minutes, but a bizarre own goal by James Milner levelled for Roma.

A Georginio Wijnaldum header put Liverpool back in front but Roma, who overturned a three-goal deficit to beat Barcelona in the last round, were 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 a penalty in stoppage-time but it was too late for the Italian side who lost the first leg of the semi-final 5-2 in Liverpool.

"We never do it the easy way, unfortunately," Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said. "It was an amazing effort. In the first half we did well and scored some good goals. Overall we handled the situation well apart from the last 10 minutes."

Liverpool's task was seemingly straightforward – avoid suffering a three-goal defeat and a place in the final in Kiev was theirs.

Their 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 were pushed back in the opening moments.

Yet Roma's spirits were dampened when Liverpool took the lead, capitalising 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 they were 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 levelled 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.

It was then backs to the wall for the Premier League side as Roma chances came and went before Nainggolan took aim from the edge of the area and rifled a shot in off the post.

He slammed home a penalty after substitute Ragnar Klavan was adjudged to have handled, but it was not enough to prevent Liverpool reaching the final for the first time since 2007.

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