A mesmerising Mo Salah performance fired Liverpool to the brink of the Champions League final as Jurgen Klopp’s men beat Roma 5-2 at Anfield.
The Egyptian star, who moved to Merseyside from Roma last summer, stunned the Italian giants when he curled a magnificent effort beyond a helpless Alisson towards the end of the opening half.
Salah then capped a superb move before Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino fired the Premier League side into an emphatic lead.
But Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti stunned the hosts late on to leave the home fans feeling unsettled ahead of the return leg.
Former Manchester City defender Aleksander Kolarov almost gave the Serie A side a crucial away goal – and lead – in the opening 20 minutes when he slammed a 30-yard effort towards goal, only for Loris Karius to unconvincingly tip onto the crossbar.
That chance might have woken up the hosts and when Mane was played through on goal by Firmino, the result seemed inevitable. The Senegal forward though, so often clinical, fired over the bar just shy of the half-hour mark.
Things only got worse for Mane moments later when he was picked out by a delightfully accurate Firmino cross to the penalty spot, only to blast high and wide.
But Liverpool’s Egyptian prince had obviously seen enough. The 25-year-old PFA Player of the Year whipped an effort towards Alisson’s far post which forced a fine save from the Brazilian goalkeeper before Mane, a minute later, finally stuck the ball in the net – only to be caught three yards offside.
Salah has stolen the show on the biggest stages this season, and once more the jinking forward stepped up to the plate when, with Liverpool pressing, he bent an unstoppable effort into the top corner of the Roma net.
A rocking Anfield cauldron was nearly sent into hysteria moments later when Dejan Lovren found himself unmarked from a corner but contrived to hit the woodwork.
But once again Salah ensured the fans would not be denied their moment of glory. A trademark Liverpool counter on 45 minutes saw Firmino play through his team-mate with a perfect pass, which the £37million man dinked over Alisson with precision.
Mane was to have his redemption, too. The second half resumed as the first ended and when Salah was picked out in acres of space once more, he duly picked out his Senegalese team-mate, who redirected the ball home.
Andy Robertson was next to try his luck, only denied by a wonderful defensive block on the hour mark, before Firmino tapped in after the man of the hour Salah caused chaos once more and set the Brazil international up for a tap-in.
Mane nearly seized on Alisson’s error when his header was kept out by Juan Jesus, but Firmino added to the humiliation when he headed home from James Milner’s corner with more than 20 minutes remaining.
Bizarrely, the closest the visitors came to a goal after Kolarov’s effort was a rogue Lovren clearance which ricocheted off substitute Patrick Schick and just beyond Karius’ far post.
Schick then fired a goalbound header from Kevin Strootman’s clever cross, only for Karius to keep him out. Not that it seemed anything could save the visitors.
Indeed, even the most pessimistic Reds fans would not have been too concerned when Dzeko slotted home with eight minutes remaining to add a scant consolation for Roma.
It was the subsequent penalty which did that. Milner was deemed to have handled in the area and when Perotti slotted into the roof of the net, Anfield was silenced.
Dzeko tested Karius from 25 yards but his shot dipped narrowly over, before Perotti nearly squeezed an effort home at the near post.
Roma pressed for a third away goal – which would have caused serious consternation among everyone connected to the Reds – but Liverpool just about kept them at bay ahead of what promises to be an intriguing second leg.