Liverpool earned a significant first leg advantage as they beat Benfica 3-1 at the Estadio da Luz last night. Goals from Konaté, Mané and Diaz helped the Reds to a victory that sees them plant one foot in the semi finals of the Champions League. Here’s a review of the match.

You can find player ratings from the game here:

° Lineup. Jürgen Klopp made six changes to the side that defeated Watford on Saturday. There were two changes in defence, two in midfield and another two in attack. With the luxury of a fully fit squad, the gaffer changed half his team and was still able to field a very strong side.

Gomez, Matip, Henderson, Jones, Firmino and Jota made way for Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Fabinho, Keita, Mané and Diaz respectively. Trent and Naby marked their return from minor injury setbacks that had seen them miss out against Watford.

° Early Reds flurry. Liverpool settled quickly and started cutting the host’s defence apart. Salah was first to get a sight of goal, after a clever Mané backheel put him through. His shot was deflected behind by the goalkeeper. Naby Keita went close next, shooting straight at the keeper after good linkup play with Salah.

° Konaté breaks the deadlock. Robertson’s corner in the 17th minute found Konaté unmarked in the box and the 22 year old powered a header past the despairing dive of Vlachodimos. It marked the youngster’s first goal for the club and he found the celebration to match.

° Plethora of chances. Liverpool looked like scoring every time they went forward. Naby should have done better with a header from six yards out after a pinpoint Mané pick out. He then played Diaz in but the chip lacked the elevation to beat the keeper. Salah was then unlucky to not connect with Robbo’s cross to the backpost.

° Classy second. When the ball fell to Trent in midfield, a long pass to Mané seemed the obvious choice. He went for the more difficult pass and made it look like the easiest thing in the world. The pass made the goal as Diaz headed across for Mané to tap home for a classy second goal.

Since making his debut in the competition back in 2017/18, Sadio Mané has scored 13 goals in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Nobody has scored more (level with Cristiano Ronaldo).

Man for the big occasion.

° More missed chances. Diaz went close again when he cut in from the left and sent his shot whistling past the near post. Salah missed a big chance on the stroke of halftime after another Trent ball over the top. The Egyptian could only place his shot straight at the keeper after racing clear.

° Splendid first half display. It was shaping up to be the perfect European away performance by halftime. The Reds had controlled the game and unlocked the host’s defence a number of times. A 2-0 lead flattered Benfica, with the Liverpool midfield bossing proceedings and playing the game on their terms.

° Konaté error. Ibou was playing very well till he missed an easy clearance from Silva’s cross four minutes after the restart. It was a terrible mistake which allowed Nunez to capitalise and half the deficit, dragging Benfica back into the contest. It had been plain sailing till that point.

° Benfica rally. The goal was a shot in the arm for the hosts, and with the crowd urging them on, they piled pressure on the Reds. They went close to drawing level when Alisson parried Everton’s shot before Fabinho made a crucial clearance to prevent the rebound from being tapped home.

° Triple substitution. The gaffer has been utilising a triple change to alter the course of games in recent weeks. On the hour mark last night, he sent on Henderson, Jota and Firmino, as Thiago, Salah and Mané were taken off.

° Salah struggles again. It’s been a tough few weeks for Mohamed Salah. He’s now without a goal from open play in any of his last ten matches for club and country. It’s the wrong time to be losing form with all the huge fixtures on the horizon. His dip in form has handed Jürgen a huge selection headache on Sunday.

° Penalty shout. Konaté stepped all the way up in the Benfica half to try and win a ball in the 66th minute, having failed to win it, Benfica countered easily into the space he had left behind. Nunez scampered through on goal and Van Dijk had to come across. Nunez cut inside Virgil and then went tumbling to huge penalty appeals.

The referee hadn’t been giving any cheap fouls throughout the game and he wasn’t about to start now. He waved play on and VAR concurred. Van Dijk put his arm across Nunez but there wasn’t enough in it to foul him. A huge reprieve for the Reds. Nunez was a constant thorn throughout.

° Diaz seals it. The January signing looked threatening throughout and could have scored before he eventually did. He raced onto Keita’s through ball late on, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted into the empty net from a tight angle. It sealed the victory and crowned a Man of the Match display.

Diaz vs Benfica (LFC rank):

• 100% long ball accuracy
• 100% aeriel duels won
• 92% pass accuracy (=2nd)
• 57 touches
• 38 passes attempted
• 35 passes completed
• 7 duels won
• 6 ball recoveries
• 4 shots (=1st)
• 3 successful dribbles (=1st)
• 3 aeriel duels won
• 1 big chance created
• 1 goal (=1st)
• 1 assist (=1st)

° Big Naby performance. It was a top class performance by Naby as he battled well in midfield and also bombed on to cause havoc in attack. He provided the assist for Diaz’s goal and looked fantastic on his latest return from injury. Whether that’s enough to get him into the side on Sunday remains to be seen.

Naby Keita vs Benfica (LFC rank):

• 106 touches (1st)
• 92% pass accuracy (=2nd)
• 78 passes attempted
• 72 passes completed
• 10 duels won (1st)
• 8 ball recoveries
• 4 shots (=1st)
• 4 attempted dribbles
• 3 successful dribbles (=1st)
• 2 big chances created (=1st)
• 1 assist (=1st)
• 1 block
• 1 tackle
• 1 interception

° A big first leg advantage. Jota missed the chance to make it 4-1 deep into injury time but it’s still a big away win for the Reds. It was their eighth consecutive away win, marking the first time in the club’s storied history that feat had been achieved. Another reminder that we’re watching the very best version of Liverpool.

° What next? It’s an enormous one at the weekend. The potential title decider. Manchester City await at the Etihad on Sunday. Expect the build up of the game to be hyped up to epic proportions. The Reds can’t get distracted by all that though. At the core of it is another football match like any other. 9 away wins in a row please.

The second leg against Benfica deserves attention as well. The Eagles played really well after their goal and could have pulled it back to 2-2. If they score first at Anfield, the tie will be back in the balance. Jürgen Klopp’s side will be confident of progressing however and will have to put in another shift to ensure their place in the last four.


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