Liverpool chairman Tom Werner has spoken of the joy of securing a “truly deserved” Champions League final place.
The 7-6 aggregate win over Roma, achieved despite a first European loss this season with a 4-2 reverse in the Stadio Olimpico, has set up a repeat of the club’s 1981 final triumph against Real Madrid.
It will be their first appearance in 11 years, which precedes the ownership of Fenway Sports Group, and Werner – a key figure in the American set-up – revelled in the moment.
“It was thrilling to beat Roma and our play in the Champions League was such that we truly deserve to be going to Kiev,” said Werner. “What a joy to experience this moment with our away supporters.”
Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum admits they face their most significant challenge tackling the defending champions and 12-time winners who have lifted the trophy in three of the last four seasons.
“Probably the biggest test we could have had, the biggest I’ve had as a player,” said the Holland international. “We have to be aware of their quality, but they have to be aware of ours.
“The Champions League is the biggest competition you can play at club level, so if you can go in your first season to the final it’s a great feeling but then you want to win the final now, so you can’t relax.”
Wijnaldum’s first away goal for a club in three years put Liverpool 2-1 ahead on the night and was ultimately crucial in sending them through.
But the Dutchman played down ending his 1,081-day wait, saying: “It’s great but people make it bigger than it is. There are players who never score!”
After heading in he raced to embrace head of fitness and conditioning Andreas Kornmayer, who had been predicting Wijnaldum would end his poor run away from home.
“We already had an agreement a few games ago that I would run to him if I scored but it didn’t happen,” he said.
“He said it a few times, but then he forgot. Then on the day he said I would score, so I had to.”
Leading scorer Mohamed Salah insists Kiev will not be a head-to-head battle with Cristiano Ronaldo.
“It is not going to be a final between Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo, I am playing for a great club and we have great players, so qualifying to the final came with great team work. I cannot do it alone.” he said.
Liverpool still have to secure Champions League football next season, although a draw at Chelsea on Sunday should be enough to do that.
Manager Jurgen Klopp admits their Kiev date has left them with some extra preparation.
“You cannot plan a Champions League final if you are not Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich,” said the German, a beaten finalist as Borussia Dortmund manager in 2013.
“They are constantly in the last four; going there is not normal for them but much more normal than it is for us.
“We had to play in the qualifiers but I knew that the competition and the football in the competition would suit us.
“The boys still had to do the job but it is not too bad for us, for sure.
“Now we go to Chelsea and, again, they will have the knife between the teeth and will fight for everything.
“We cannot go to the Champions League final with nice football, constantly being better than the other team.
“That’s not possible and you have to suffer from time to time. These boys are constantly over their limit. Constantly. I am really proud of that.
“We have to do it three more times and then we can be part of the Champions League again next season.”
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