A late goal from Luis Diaz put Liverpool in a commanding position to reach the last four of the Champions League after a 3-1 win over Benfica in their quarterfinal first leg at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz on Tuesday.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 5, 2022
Early goals from Ibrahima Konate and Sadio Mane had Liverpool in total control at half-time but Benfica capitalized on a sloppy start to the second half by the visitors, with Darwin Nunez pulling a goal back to breathe fresh life into the tie. Instead, with three minutes remaining, Diaz seized on a through ball from Naby Keita to restore Liverpool’s two-goal advantage heading into next week’s second leg at Anfield.
The victory also saw Liverpool set a new club record, with their eighth successive away win.
“It was tough when they scored because the crowd was there immediately because they knew that 2-0 is nothing, it’s nice but nothing more than that and we saw it after they scored,” Jurgen Klopp told BT Sport afterwards. “The game was much more open than we expected.
“That’s it. We won. Two goals up. Halftime. Not more, not less. It would have been nice to score another one, but let’s keep going. We have a good result, we know much more about our opponent going to the second game and are aware of their quality.”
— Ibrahima Konate (@IbrahimaKonate_) April 5, 2022
For a Liverpool team facing a crucial trip to Premier League leaders Manchester City in between the two matches with Benfica, the first half could hardly have gone better.
Not for the first time, Liverpool’s two rampaging full-backs were key to finding the net. First, on 17 minutes, Andy Robertson supplied a pinpoint corner kick and Konate rose highest to power a header down and in from six yards for the centre-back’s first Liverpool goal.
Then just a few minutes later, Trent Alexander-Arnold capitalized immediately on a Benfica giveaway in the midfield to supply a wondrous diagonal ball over the top of the Benfica defense. Diaz got on the end of it to head across the face of goal and give Mane the simple task to side foot into the net.
With his 22nd Champions League goal for Liverpool, Mane surpassed the mark of Reds legend Steven Gerrard, putting him behind only Mohamed Salah in Europe’s premier competition.
At half-time, it looked to be only a matter of time before Klopp began to rest some of his key men ahead of Sunday’s top-of-the-league clash at the Etihad.
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) April 5, 2022
Benfica, though, had other ideas. Less than five minutes after the restart, Nunez showed why he is reportedly in the sights of some of Europe’s top clubs as he slotted in for his 20th goal in his last 20 games in all competitions after Konate failed to cut out a Rafa Silva cross.
Klopp’s concern was evident when choosing to make a triple substitution, bringing on Jordan Henderson, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino.
Spurred on by a reawakened home crowd, Benfica continued to threaten to level the tie-up. But Liverpool’s greater quality shone through as Diaz, on his return to Portugal following his January move from Porto, continued to prove himself an exceptional midseason addition and give Liverpool an ideal start to a massive week.
A good result to take back to Anfield. The focus now turns to Sunday.. pic.twitter.com/RcyhG9AuAv
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) April 5, 2022
“It was a tough game but we had plenty of opportunities to score more after the second, couldn’t do that, got sloppy and allowed them to get back into the game lifted by the crowd,” Robertson told BT Sport.
“Luis Diaz got a nice reception from the start, playing for one of their rivals, but a good goal for him and a two-goal cushion makes a difference. Hopefully, we can get the job done.”
Courtesy: ESPN FC