Trio of Liverpool stars deliver as Reds put one foot in Champions League semi-finals

Liverpool have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals after beating Benfica 3-1 in the first leg of the quarterfinals in Portugal.

The Reds were outstanding in the first half but struggled in the second. However, their overall performance was rewarded thanks to goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz.

The visitors created a couple of early chances and it took just 17 minutes for them to break through.

Former Porto winger Luis Diaz won a corner which Andy Robertson converted to the far post where Konate easily edged past Benfica winger Everton to beat the keeper with a downward header.

It was the centre-back’s first goal for the club since joining from RB Leipzig in the summer.

Liverpool continued to let good chances slip by, but when the second goal came, they executed it brilliantly.

Alexander-Arnold’s superb ball over the top selected Diaz, who headed down for Mane to touch home plate.

Konate’s mistake gives hope to Benfica

Liverpool They had to pay for their wasted opportunities just four minutes into the second half when a Konate error gifted Darwin Nunez a goal.

The centre-back tangled his feet in a complete mess trying to get around a low cross from Rafa Silva and the Benfica striker took a touch before finishing at close range.

But just when it seemed frustration would improve for Liverpool, Keita’s perfect through ball allowed Luis Diaz to go around the goalkeeper and score an angled shot.

Liverpool (4-3-3)

Alison: He made a couple of routine saves in a quiet first half. He could do nothing against Núñez’s goal after being disappointed by Konate. 6

Trent Alexander-Arnold: A brilliant pass found Diaz to set up Mane’s second for the Reds. He was about to repeat the trick when he found Salah just before the break but the red star’s effort was saved. More defensive in the second half as Benfica showed more threat. 8

Ibrahim Konate: He scored his first goal for the club with a fine downward header to give Liverpool the lead. He had a great first half, but a howler returned Benfica’s goal. 6

Virgil van Dijk: He had his hands full, mainly in the second half, when Darwin Núñez began to show his qualities. However, he kept his composure to guide the Reds to victory. 7

Andrew Robertson: He was a constant threat when he joined the attack in the first half. But it was a different story in the second as he was forced to go safer. 7

Two-half match for Liverpool

Naby Keita: He started the match very brilliantly, getting into the area at every opportunity. But he had problems as Benfica had more success in the second half. 7

Fabinho: He dominated from his base against the back four and was the best of Liverpool’s three starting midfielders on the night. He received a late blow to the head but was able to continue. 8

Thiago: They dominated in the first half, but struggled on the back foot when Benfica picked up the pace and the Reds slacked off their passes. Reserved. 6

Louis Diaz: He handed over ownership on the left and had the bite between his teeth, being a former Porto player. He continued as Mane and Salah hooked up and clinched victory at the end with a good finish. 8

Sadio Mane: He started in the middle and had the easiest tap-ins. He was lively in the first half but struggled in the second when the serve ran out. Subtitled 7

Mo Salah: He missed a great chance to make it 3-0 just before the break after another brilliant pass from Alexander-Arnold. He was Liverpool’s quietest of the three and was substituted at the hour mark. 6

Substitutes:

Jordan Henderson (instead of Thiago, 61): He got some decent crossover positions, but his release left a lot to be desired. 5

Diogo Jota (replacing Salah, 61): He wasted a great opportunity to make the fourth in stoppage time when he should have scored. 5

Roberto Firmino (substitute for Mane, 61): Good move when he came in and he clearly looked more comfortable in the center role than Mane. 6

James Milner (instead of Keita, 89): N/A

Joe Gomez (backup to Alexander-Arnold, 89): N/A

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