For all the talk there was about Group B being this year’s “group of death” in the Champions League, Liverpool have made it look easy escaping it.
Maybe all that talk was for our opponents and not us, because the win on Wednesday evening against Atlético Madrid ensured that, even with two matches to go in the group stages, Liverpool are onto the next round.
To be fair, Madrid was always going to be the toughest club we faced, as evidenced by every other time we’ve faced them - even as recently as a couple weeks ago when we barely beat them 3-2. Wednesday’s performance was big, though, a nice flag planted in the Champions League that we deserve to be here.
“Yeah, that was important for us,” captain Jordan Henderson said following the match.
“When we played them away we were 2-0 up and they got it back to 2-2, so we were quite wary of that and making sure that didn’t happen again – manage the game properly, keep the ball, keep them running. Overall, pleasing. I thought we took the sting out of the game second half well and saw out the game well.”
Both of Liverpool’s goals came in the first half, with Diogo Jota opening things up at the 13th minute and Sadio Mane joining him on the scoresheet less than ten minutes later, and that control of the first half went a long way towards controlling the entire match - even as Madrid went down to 10 men after Felipe received a straight red card.
“First half I thought we were very good: on the front foot, creating chances, winning the ball back high up, some lovely play and some good goals,” Henderson continued. “So, first half very good and then I thought the second half was a professional performance.”
Even with masters of the Dark Arts at their disposal (looking at you, Luis), Henderson made sure to recognize the management of the match that it took from the squad not to get drawn into Madrid’s shenanigans.
“They’re a tough side, they make it difficult. We knew that when we played them last game,” added the skipper.
“It was a big night for us. Like I said, first half was very good; second half, we managed the game well. Could have probably scored one or two more if we’re being critical. But overall, I think we’ve got to be delighted with the performance and obviously qualified for the next round.”
Not only has Liverpool’s perfect record in the tournament so far ensured that they’ve qualified for the round of 16 with two matches to go, the draw between Porto and Milan also cements the Reds’ position atop the group, regardless of what happens in the next two matches - which feels pretty good, but isn’t something Henderson is letting himself dwell on.
“It’s an achievement, especially in this group with the teams that are in it, to win the group and qualify for the next round is important,” Henderson concluded.
“But we want to keep going, keep the momentum going when we’re playing games. There’s still big games to come and we want to finish them properly.”
All eyes are back to the Premier League now, with West Ham on the horizon.