TV View: Gladiator Salah unleashes hell on sorry Romans
Colosseum made to look like Funderland before late sting in the tail
Mohamed Salah after scoring Liverpool’s second at Anfield. Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Footballing occasions of this magnitude don’t need any puffery at all, they can provide their very own exhilaration, so it was good to hear our BT Sport commentator Darren Fletcher remaining calm as the teams appeared in the tunnel.
Until they began taking steps towards the pitch, that is, at which point he couldn’t resist emoting in a grip-losing kind of way.
“The players are getting a taste of what it must have been like WHEN THE GLADIATORS STRODE OUT AT THE COLOSSEUM ALL THOSE YEARS AGO IN ROME!”
Many would argue that these two things are not the same at all, that being skewered by a great historical warrior like, say, Russell Crowe is not akin to, say, playing a sloppy back-pass and putting your goalie under pressure in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final.
Then again, by the 45th minute the Roma players might have felt that Anfield made the Colosseum seem like Funderland, twice Bobby Firmino whispering ‘at my signal’, twice Mo Salah unleashing hell.
The first was delicious, the second similarly gem-like, this time Juan Jesus his victim. “Mohamed had too much for Jesus,” as Gary Lineker put it, which, presumably, resulted in his Twitter feed imploding. Although up there with the highlights of the night was when Brian Kerr, over on TV3, referred to the lad as “Jaysus”, which is pretty much what Roma’s Dublin-based fans must have uttered every time Mo took him on.
And by the 61st minute Salah had signalled to Sadio Mane and Bobby that they should do some hell-unleashing themselves, and they said, ‘alright then’. 4-0.
All you want in life, really, is something impressive to tell the grandchildren, and now we have it: we saw Mo Salah in his prime. Unless he’s going to get better, which is a mind-mangling thought. If his effortless brilliance wasn’t enough, he also has a big smiley head on him, Anfield doesn’t even need floodlights when he beams. (Or when Bobby flashes his teeth). To think, until this season, Mido was the Egyptian king.
And seven minutes later Liverpool were having a laugh. 5-0.
As Steve McManaman asked, not unreasonably, “how on earth did Roma beat Barcelona?” “It’s like a stroll in the park! It’s the Champions League semi-finals!”
It was, then, proving to be a tough night for those who do not share the Liverpool faith, TV3 adding to the pain by insisting on showing incessant replays of high points in the club’s history.
“I don’t mean to sound big headed,” said Graeme Souness with a straight face, before giving us a forensic analysis of his penalty in the shoot-out against Roma in the 1984 European Cup final.
Most of us remember it for Bruce Grobbelaar’s wobbly legs. Not Graeme.
“Anyone who’s played football will tell you it’s the hardest possible technique because you’re putting the least amount of leather on the ball,” he said of the manner in which his foot made contact with the spherical object as he converted his shoot-out effort.
Neil Lennon congratulated him on his “ping”, as he called it, and you sensed Graeme wanted to discuss his ping all night, but by then Tommy Martin had sent Brian over to the Big Screen to do some analysis on April 24th, 2018 footballing matters rather than May 30th, 1984 pings, so Graeme was cut off in his prime.
All you could pray for at this stage was that Istanbul wouldn’t be mentioned.
Back to BT Sport. Istanbul-a-rama for a spell. And Steven Gerrard was on the panel, alongside a yawning Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand, so it was a trial.
Then Gary made us listen to a lengthy version of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ that was lifting the roof off the Colosseum, and a bit like Roma in the end, it felt like the night would never cease.
But hold your horses.
5-0 up and Mo is taken off, presumably with Saturday’s critical game away to Leicester in mind. And so relieved were Roma to see the back of him, they only went and scored two goals.
“Well, well, well,” said Steve.
‘Well, well, well,’ said we.
But by the time Mo has finished gladiatoring in Rome, you’d half guess he’ll be packing his sword for Kiev.