The performance was good, the result was well-deserved better than necessary, and the Reds have made their way to the final eight of the Champions League for the third time in four years, despite their domestic season being in the middle of an historic collapse.
Below, we look at some of the winners and losers from another famous European night at... the empty Puskas Arena.
Fábio Henrique Tavares: Having watched Fabinho kinda sorta be good at centre-back for most of the season — when he hasn’t been out with injury — has maybe made some people forget just how phenomenal a defensive midfielder he is, but the man put us all on notice tonight.
Anchoring the central midfield alongside Georginio Wijnaldum and Thiago, the Brazilian was outstanding, recording three tackles and four interceptions, while shielding the inexperienced centre-back pairing behind him with gusto. It was a performance belying just how long it has been since the former Monaco man has had a run of games in the position, and one that should encourage Reds fans that better things are possible.
Thiago Alcantara: It’s unclear if promises of being converted from a deep-lying playmaker to a slide tackling wild man was the sole cause Thiago had his heart set on playing under Jürgen Klopp or just part of the reason, but the Spaniard has certainly thrown himself into the role.
For those who have watched the 29-year old control games from deep in midfield for years, it’s jarring to see him at the tip of the midfield, leading the press, and the number of fouls he has conceded in Red thus far suggests that he’s probably not quite as adept at his new role, but Thiago was excellent tonight, racking up six tackles and an interception while going four for four on long passes.
He should’ve had either a goal or assist when clean through in the first half — his overly unselfish outside the boot dink to Mohamed Salah was underhit and cut out by Kevin Kampl — but overall this was a tremendous performance from Liverpool’s new all-action midfielder.
Big Nat Phillips: A Bambi moment in the first half notwithstanding, where he was left looking absolutely glacial by the not-exactly-rapid Yussuf Poulsen, Phillips had perhaps his best outing in a Red shirt thus far. Throwing his bandaged skull into spots where heads absolutely should not go, the 23-year old put it all on the line tonight, and will undoubtedly earn well-deserved plaudits for his efforts.
G... Goals?: Liverpool scored two. And they were good ones as well, with Mo Salah cutting inside and slashing the ball back into the near corner like it was 2017 again, and Divock Origi setting up Sadio Mané for a far-post tap-in as though he hasn’t been a non-factor at the club for nearly two years now.
Sure, the Reds were still well behind their expected goals, missing four of their six big chances, as is tradition, but a dominant performance against the second best team in another top five league, with a result to match is not a thing that should be taken for granted.
Talk of Turning Points is likely premature, and jaded Liverpool fans will expect a harsh reckoning with reality next week, but for now, they’re in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and deservedly so. All told, that’s a good thing.
Nagels McBagels: Since bullishly declaring Anfield not that big of a deal a few years ago, Julian Nagelsmann has lost four straight games to the Reds, conceding ten goals while scoring only three. Sure, only one of them have actually taken place on Merseyside, but it’s still an uninspiring record for everybody’s favourite young, brash manager starlet.
Better luck next time, Julian! Anfield isn’t going anywhere.
What Happens Next
It’s back to the sad reality of the Premier League, as the Reds take on Wolverhampton on Monday, but at least they’re not playing at Anfield.
In fact, Liverpool won’t have another game on Merseyside for a month — when Leeds come to visit on April 10th — as there’s an international break coming up and a trip to the Emirates awaiting when proper football returns on Easter Saturday. Which is to say, assuming they don’t implode yet again against Wolves, Liverpool fans will have the chance to bask in the glow of another European success for a good long while.
Up the European Royalty Reds!