Goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz gave Liverpool an important victory in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Benfica in Lisbon.
Konate and Mane had given the Reds a 2-0 first-half lead, before Darwin Nunez capitalized on a defensive error to score in the 49th minute. The irrepressible Diaz then put the match beyond question with a third in the 88th minute.
Liverpool started brilliantly, with Diaz causing problems for Benfica from the start. The former Porto player created the first chance of the match inside the opening three minutes, beating his man down the left before sending a cross into the area. Naby Keita came out of midfield to catch him, but was unable to contain his next header.
Five minutes later, the Reds came close to scoring the first goal. A wonderful interplay between Mane and Mohamed Salah, including a cheeky backheel from the former, saw Salah drive into the goal on the right side of the penalty area. However, Alex Grimaldo was on hand to control his goal-scoring effort, turning the ball around for a corner kick.
The barrage continued in the 11th minute when Salah became the provider for Keita, whose shot from the edge of the box was clumsily cleared by Odysseas Vlachodimos. It wasn’t pretty, but the goalkeeper did the right thing.
A much-deserved opener finally arrived for Liverpool courtesy of Konate. The centre-back rose above his marker to head in a fantastic Andy Robertson corner that gave the Reds a deserved lead.
Liverpool continued to dominate until the half hour mark, when Nicolás Otamendi squandered a glorious opportunity to level with Benfica. The Argentine got rid of Mané’s marking to win a free header on the edge of the small area. The header, however, was very ill-advised and he went wide of the right post.
Moments later, Benfica were punished for that mistake as the Reds doubled their lead. Trent Alexander-Arnold brilliantly found Diaz with a ball from the left flank, and the new signing subsequently headed the way of Mane, who was error-free from 10 yards to score in Game 2 for the Reds.
It could have been three on the stroke of half-time, but Salah saw a shot from the left of the penalty that Vlachodimos saved well.
Benfica breathed life into the tie at the start of the second half, with Núñez capitalizing on a, well, horrible play by Konate. The centre-back fumbled the ball as he tried to clear a cross from Rafa Silva, allowing Núñez to steal and deflect the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
Liverpool seemed much more nervous after conceding, clumsily losing possession, making silly challenges and allowing Benfica to grow in the game. On the hour of play, Le Aquile squandered a brilliant opportunity to make it 2-2: Everton’s effort from the edge of the area was well saved by Alisson.
A few well-timed changes from Klopp stifled the home team’s assault on the Reds’ goal, and Jordan Henderson, in particular, provided some much-needed calm in midfield.
The Reds finally put the game out of the question in the 85th minute, when Diaz walked around Vlachodimos and kicked the ball with his side foot into an empty net.
Alisson Becker (GK) – 6/10 – He could do nothing with Benfica’s goal, but he made a good save to maintain Liverpool’s advantage over the hour of play.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB) – 7/10 – Completely unplayable in the first half, he barely missed a single pass, most of which were 50-yard cross balls to the feet.
Ibrahima Konate (CB) – 5/10 – He 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 couple of times in the second.
Andy Robertson (LB) – 7/10 – The Scottish captain’s set-piece shooting was typically brilliant, connecting the corner kick that set up the opening goal.
Naby Keita (CM) – 7/10 – Truly impressive box-to-box performance from the former RB Leipzig man. Set the third.
Fabinho (CM) – 5/10 – Orderly in possession, but was caught by the movement of Gonçalo Ramos at times in the second half.
Thiago Alcantara (CM) – 3/10 – He is not his usual self in midfield.
Mohammed Salah (RW) – 4/10 – He was very, very wasteful in front of goal at the end of the first half. Subtitled at the timestamp.
Sadio Mané (ST) – 7/10 – He is not a natural striker, but his link-up game with Salah was impressive. Subtitled at the timestamp.
Luis Diaz (LW) – 9/10 – Brilliant decision by Klopp to start the Brazilian. He was a handful on the left flank all night, setting up the second with a beautiful header down the path of Mane and then scoring the third.
Jordan Henderson – 6/10 – He added some much-needed calm in midfield.
Diogo Jota – 6/10 – Put in a turn when entered.
Roberto Firmino – 6/10 – It helped with his ability to hold the ball.
Joe Gomez – N/A.
James Milner – N/A.