LIVERPOOL 3-3 BENFICA: The Reds meet Villarreal in the Champions League semi-finals after clinching an aggregate win over Benfica after a vibrant return leg at Anfield on Wednesday
Video not available
Liverpool are in the semi-finals of the Champions League, but only after giving up a 3-3 two-goal lead against Benfica in the evening to go 6-4 on aggregate.
Jurgen Klopp’s side came into play in a strong position after the 3-1 win in Lisbon and an early header from Ibrahima Konate and a brace from Roberto Firmino secured a place in the last four where they beat the surprise package Villarreal will step up later this month.
Liverpool knew that a quick start would all but ensure their progress and they got just that when Konate nodded off a Kostas Tsimikas corner after just 21 minutes. However, Benfica were undeterred and Darwin Nunez had seconds later ruled out a goal for offside before Goncalo Ramos was undeniable and equalized that night, bringing them back to two goals.
And the goal briefly seemed to give the visitors confidence that they could turn the tie on its head after all. After a penniless start to the second half, Roberto Firmino restored Liverpool’s healthy lead after a comedy of mistakes in defence, then looked to end all hopes of a rousing comeback with his second just after the hour mark.
Benfica appeared to have resigned themselves to their fate before twice breaking through the home side’s defenses in nine minutes, first Roman Yaremchuk and then Darwin Nunez. However, Liverpool managed the last ten minutes professionally and their hopes of winning an unprecedented treble are stronger than ever. mirror football has the big talking points of an exciting encounter at Anfield.
On the front foot
Jordan Henderson warned his teammates not to take Benfica for granted, especially after Chelsea s quick start in Madrid and Villarreal that eliminates Bayern. “If we want to get ahead, we have to do our best,” he wrote on Wednesday night’s show. “It is really that easy.”
However, following Sunday’s exploits against Man City combined with their comfortable position, Liverpool could have been excused for a somewhat slow start.
But from the first whistle, the Reds seemed desperate to steal the draw from their opponents with an early goal. Konate’s opener was almost a copy of his goal in Lisbon last week and a rich reward for his team’s positive attitude.
Klopp is true to his word
“Of course it is,” the Reds boss replied last month when asked if Liverpool’s current squad was the strongest of his time at the club. “We had this strong squad, they just weren’t available. Now they are available. That makes him the squad we always wanted.”
Being able to rotate his roster felt like a pipe dream last season, such was the extent of their chronic injury woes. It’s a different story this time around, however, and making seven changes for such a massive game proves just how much Klopp can now rely on the role players in his squad.
The German suggested making the changes to have some ‘fresh legs’ between back-to-back domestic games Manchester Citythe ability to rest players might yet prove the big difference.
Firmino’s timely reminder
Whenever you think Roberto Firmino is stepping down from a prominent role at Liverpool, he reminds any doubters of what he can offer his side. His selfless running, high pressing and connection play are universally recognized but the Brazilian has a practical talent for scoring goals in crucial moments.
Benfica was just starting to gain confidence as he opened his account while his second tie ended as a tightly contested contest. He now has 11 goals in all competitions and is still a key player going into May.
There’s a very good chance he’ll return from the starting XI at Wembley, but Klopp knows – perhaps more than anyone – exactly what he has in reserve.
The state of affairs
With 51 games lost in this mammoth season, Liverpool have a maximum of just 11 between them and sporting immortality. In which First Leagueremain firmly in the title fight, although they will count on Manchester City to drop points.
And with theirs Champions League Progress in the pocket, all eyes return to the FA Cup where they will meet City in a Wembley semi-final on Saturday. Klopp’s side should be a little fresher as Pep Guardiola is forced to start both painful encounters with Atletico Madrid.
It is then back-to-back league games with rivals Manchester United and evertonbefore the first leg against Villarreal and a quick turnaround for newcastle away on Saturday afternoon – a scheduling decision that infuriated Klopp.
They may still fall short, but few, if any, outside the confines of Anfield have felt that with half a century of games on the board, everything was still up for grabs.
Nunez masters his audition
If this was an audition for a move to the Premier League this summer, Darwin Nunez passed it with flying colors. In fact, he was so impressive that potential suitors will probably have to shell out a bit more to sign him.
Nunez seems to have everything it takes to succeed in the Premier League, with his pace, direct drive and strength all of which should translate instantly to the English top flight. With all these physical attributes, perhaps it’s his unfailing ability in front of goal that will make him the most appealing.
The battle for him could be one of the most intriguing of the summer but the Uruguayan seems to be scoring goals at stadiums like Anfield.
An ongoing worry
This may have been a completely different back four, but it was a Liverpool defense struggling with the same problem that City capitalized on in Sunday’s Titanic title fight. Benfica were caught offside on a few occasions, played regularly at Liverpool’s high line and came into play on a number of occasions, particularly in the second half.
It’s a part of Klopp’s style that won’t be put on hold for the foreseeable future, but Benfica have at least shown there is a way to hurt the Reds. Unai Emery and Villarreal will have taken notes.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/liverpool-vs-benfica-match-highlights-26707974 Liverpool reach Champions League semi-finals to raise quadruple hopes - 6 talking points