The English Liverpool put their ticket to the semifinals of the 2021-2022 Champions League on track after beating the Portuguese Benfica 1-3 this Tuesday in Da Luz in a first leg of the quarterfinals where they took advantage of their great first half, which allowed to better manage the Lisbon reaction after the break where something worse happened.
Juergen Klopp’s team was overwhelming in the first 45 minutes and went into the break 0-2, a loot that could seem scarce in relation to the game they exhibited, which they put at risk when their rival got into the game after an error defensive player at the beginning of the second half and who once again struck gold with a goal in the closing stages.
The ‘reds’ came out ready to finish the game and the tie as soon as possible. With his usual dizzying and direct pace and suffocating pressure, he cornered the ‘incarnate’ team, unable to take a breather and suffering from the initial whistle of the Spanish Jesús Gil Manzano.
Little more than a quarter of an hour it took Liverpool to find a reward for an insistence personified mainly by Naby Keita, whose appearances from the second row created many problems in the first half hour. However, he went from a set piece, on a corner kick launched by Robertson and headed unopposed by Konaté, as Klopp’s men came forward.
The goal did not wake up a Benfica that could not contain the barrage to which its rival was submitting and that entrusted itself to what Darwin Núñez could ‘scratch’ above. Luis Díaz, another of the hosts’ headaches in the first half, ran into Vachlodimos hand in hand, and Salah was also unsuccessful in a quick transition after a robbery by Thiago Alcántara.
The Portuguese team had their ‘best’ chance in a missed shot from Otamendi from a set piece, but then conceded 0-2. Alexander-Arnold sent a great pass to Díaz and the latter, before the goalkeeper left, headed it to Mané so that the Senegalese could push it. In the final stretch, Salah made it 0-3 after another shipment from the right back, but Vachlodimos avoided it, and Rafael Silva tried unsuccessfully for Nelson Verissimo’s men on a counterattack.
But everything changed after passing through the locker room. Liverpool tried to keep the initiative, but Benfica found extra energy with Darwin Núñez’s early goal. The Uruguayan striker did not forgive a mistake in Konaté’s clearance and the 1-2 revived the locals, who decided to put more rhythm into the game.
The match already opened in two directions, although the hexachampions of Europe, paying for the weak game of Salah and Mané and the little appearance of Luis Díaz, could not take advantage of it. The ‘Eagles’ did come close to doing so, coming close to equalizing with a shot from Everton that Alisson saved. Klopp reacted with a triple change and looked for new solutions up front with Firmino and Diogo Jota for their African duo, without much success.
The passing of the minutes began to weigh on a Benfica that was once again somewhat enclosed by a Liverpool that handled the final stretch better and struck the last blow in Da Luz. Keita put together a ‘counter’ and sent a good pass to Luis Díaz, who had had a clear chance before and who this time did not forgive to dribble past Vachlodimos and leave the tie almost in sight for sentence. The Greek goalkeeper, however, saved a new one-on-one against Jota in the 97th minute.
—BENFICA: Vlachodimos; Gilberto, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Rafa Silva, Weigl, Taarabt (Meite, min.70), Everton (Yaremchuk, min.82); Gonçalo Ramos (Joao Ramos, min.86) and Darwin Núñez.
–LIVERPOOL: Allison; Alexander-Arnold (Joe Gomez, min. 89), Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita (Milner, min.89), Fabinho, Thiago (Henderson, min.61); Salah (Diogo Jota, min.61), Mané (Firmino, min.61) and Luis Díaz.
—GOALS. 0-1, minute 17. Konate; 0-2, minute 34. Mané; 1-2, minute 49. Darwin Núñez; 1-3, minute 87, Luis Diaz.