Goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz earned Liverpool an important Champions League quarter-final first leg win over Benfica in Lisbon.
Konate and Mane had given the Reds a 2-0 lead in the first half, before the highly-rated Darwin Nunez capitalised on a defensive error to scored at in the 49th minute. The irrepressible Diaz then put the game beyond doubt with an 88th minute third.
Liverpool started brightly, with Diaz causing Benfica problems from the outset. The former Porto man created the first chance of the game inside the opening three minutes, beating his man out left before looping a cross into the box. Naby Keita broke from midfield to latch onto it, but was unable to keep his subsequent header down.
Five minutes later the Reds came close to bagging an opener. Some wonderful interplay between Mane and Mohamed Salah – which included a cheeky backheel from the former – led to Salah finding himself through on goal on the right hand side of the penalty area. However, Alex Grimaldo was on hand to get a toe on his effort on goal, spinning the ball out for a corner kick.
The barrage continued in the 11th minute, with Salah turning provider for Keita, whose effort from the edge of the box was clumsily palmed clear by Odysseas Vlachodimos. It wasn’t pretty, but the goalkeeper did just enough.
A much deserved opener eventually came for Liverpool courtesy of Konate. The centre-back towered over his marker to head home a fantastic out-swinging corner kick from Andy Robertson to give the Reds a much deserved lead.
Liverpool continued to dominate up until the half-hour mark, when Nicolas Otamendi spurned a glorious chance to draw Benfica level. The Argentine got free of Mane’s marking to earn himself a free header on the edge of the six-yard box. The header, however, was wildly miscued and went wide of the right post.
Moments later, Benfica were punished for that miss as the Reds doubled their lead. Trent Alexander-Arnold brilliantly found Diaz with a sweeping ball from the left flank, with the new signing subsequently heading down into the path of Mane, who made no mistake from 10-yards out to score the Reds’ second of the game.
It could’ve been three on the stroke of half-time, but Salah saw a shot from the left of the penalty are well saved by Vlachodimos.
Benfica breathed life into the tie at the very start of the second half, with Nunez capitalising on some, well, horrific play from Konate. The centre-back missed the ball when trying to clear a Rafa Silva cross, allowing Nunez to steal in and side-foot the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Liverpool looked much nervier after conceding, clumsily losing possession, making silly challenges, and allowing Benfica to grow into the game. On the hour mark, Le Aquile missed a brilliant chance to make it 2-2 – Everton’s effort from the edge of the box being well saved by Alisson.
A few timely substitutes by Klopp quelled the home side’s assault on the Reds goal, with Jordan Henderson in particular providing a much-needed calm head in the middle of the park.
The Reds finally put the game beyond doubt in the 85th minute, when Diaz rounded Vlachodimos and side-footed the ball into an empty net.
Alisson Becker (GK) – 6/10 – Could do nothing about the Benfica goal, but made a good stop to retain Liverpool’s lead on the hour mark.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB) – 7/10 – Utterly unplayable in the first half, barely misplaced a single pass – most of which were 50-yard cross-field balls to feet.
Ibrahima Konate (CB) – 5/10 – Scored a brilliant header to open the scoring, then made a terrible mistake to allow Benfica to score.
Virgil van Dijk (CB) – 5/10 – Decent in the first half, caught a few times in the second.
Andy Robertson (LB) – 7/10 – The Scottish captain’s set pieces delivery was typically brilliant, looping in the corner kick which set up the opener.
Naby Keita (CM) – 7/10 – Really impressive box-to-box performance from the former RB Leipzig man. Set up the third.
Fabinho (CM) – 5/10 – Tidy in possession, but was caught out by the movement of Goncalo Ramos at times in the second half.
Thiago Alcantara (CM) – 3/10 – Not his usual self in midfield.
Mohamed Salah (RW) – 4/10 – Was very, very wasteful in front of goal at the end of the first half. Subbed off on the hour mark.
Sadio Mane (ST) – 7/10 – Not a natural striker, but his link-up play with Salah was impressive. Subbed off on the hour mark.
Luis Diaz (LW) – 9/10 – Brilliant decision from Klopp to start the Brazilian. He was a handful on the left flank all evening, set up the second with a lovely header into the path of Mane and then scored the third.
Jordan Henderson – 6/10 – Added some much needed calm in midfield.
Diogo Jota – 6/10 – Put in a shift when he came on.
Roberto Firmino – 6/10 – Helped with his ability to hold up the ball.
Joe Gomez – N/A.
James Milner – N/A.