Liverpool triumph in 13-goal Roman epic

Hot streak: Sadio Mané scored his ninth goal of the 2018 Champions League on Wednesday. ©Getty

Is football the greatest sport? Liverpool has thrilled the world with its full-blooded football — with a bruised Roma the latest victim of the team’s march to the Champions League final.

“Wild.”

That was Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s assessment of his team’s performance in Rome on Wednesday night. “It was a little bit exciting,” he added. “More exciting than I actually wanted.”

Liverpool lost a chaotic match against Roma 4-2, but qualified for the Champions League final with a remarkable aggregate score of 7-6. “It sounds crazy because it is crazy,” Klopp said of the goal tally.

His team has thrilled onlookers this year with an entertaining mix of attacking flair and defensive frailty — summed up perfectly by the opening phase of Wednesday’s match.

After just eight minutes, Sadio Mané smashed the ball into Roma’s net after a fluid and devastating counter-attack. Soon after, the ball was in Liverpool’s goal, courtesy of a comical own goal (an attempted clearance struck Liverpool’s James Milner square in the face before ballooning over the line).

Klopp’s team scored again, but three more Roma goals set up a frenetic finish with the Italians threatening a miraculous comeback.

But the final whistle came too soon, sending Liverpool players and fans into raptures. They now look forward to a Champions League final showdown with Spanish titans Real Madrid.

The final is sure to be a goal fest. The competition’s four top scorers all belong to either club. However, Liverpool will start the game as underdogs.

And apart from beautiful goals, it is this potential for teams to upset the odds which makes football so exciting — at least according to scientists.

Researchers analysed over 300,000 hockey, football, basketball, baseball and American football matches over a 100-year period, and found that football had the highest “upset frequency”. More unpredictable results make more excitement, scientists concluded.

Liverpool themselves contested one of the most exciting football matches of recent times. Dubbed “the miracle of Istanbul”, the team came back from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final. We’ll soon find out if history is about to repeat itself.

Is football the world’s greatest sport?

Beautiful game

There is no other contender, some argue. From city streets to open fields, anywhere is a potential pitch. And its simple rules mean anyone in the world can join in. Furthermore, because it is so globally popular, the game has a unique power to unite people of all backgrounds. Football is the winner.

But there is so much more out there, others respond. And focusing all our attention on one sport means others get neglected. Fundamentally, it is not about what game is the “greatest”, but what brings the most joy to individuals — and most importantly, what gets people active.

You Decide

  1. What is the world’s greatest sport?
  2. Why does society value sport so highly?

Activities

  1. What do you think is the world’s greatest sport? Write down three arguments in favour of your opinion. In a short speech, deliver your arguments to the class — try to be as convincing as possible. How many people agree with you?
  2. It’s time to become a sports journalist. Watch the highlights video at the top of Become An Expert. In no more than 200 words, write a match report of the game. Make sure you use as much exciting language as you can!

Some People Say...

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. It’s much more serious than that.”

Bill Shankly

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Football is the most watched sport in the world. For example, the 2014 FIFA World Cup was watched by 3.2 billion people, with a billion viewers watching the final alone. With 13 goals across two legs, Liverpool’s tie against Roma was the highest scoring semi-final in Champions League history. Liverpool is also the only team to score five or more goals in four games within a single European campaign.
What do we not know?
It is difficult to determine the world’s second most popular sport. Cricket has over a billion fans, but these are concentrated in a handful of countries — mostly India and Pakistan. Major League Baseball is the best-attended sports league in the world, but this is mostly due to the huge number of games in a season.

Word Watch

7-6
Liverpool won the first leg of that match 5-2. However, the team was leading 5-0 at one stage, before Roma scored two late goals of its own.
Champions League final
The match will be played in Kiev on May 26.
Top scorers
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo leads the charts with 15 goals. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have 10 goals each, and Sadio Mané has nine.
Beautiful
Every year since 2009, FIFA has awarded the scorer of the most beautiful goal of the year the Puskás Award — named over the legendary Hungarian striker Ferenc Puskás.
Researchers
Study lead by Eli Ben-Naim. Findings published in the 2006 paper “Parity and Predictability of Competitions”.
Upset frequency
How often a team with a worse record beats a supposedly superior team.
Beat
After extra time, the score was 3-3. Liverpool secured victory on the proceeding penalty shootout.