Despite the final scoreline reading 0-1, and the aggregate score having the two teams separated by only a single goal, Liverpool are through to the quarter finals of the Champions League, and deservedly so. The Reds hit the post no less than three times tonight, Virgil van Dijk missed a free header from six yards, and Luis Díaz was thwarted from similar distance in injury time, and across the two legs, the Reds accumulated four times as much expected goal value as their opponents.
Inter did not play badly — in fact, one could, and many will, argue they did incredibly well, all things considered — but it must be recognised that the Italians’ press resistance and competitiveness in midfield came at the cost of their own offensive threat, and the fourth most dangerous attacking side in Europe’s top five leagues was reduced to pot shots from range in both games, managing only 13 shots worth a total of 0.7 expected goals, all the while failing to prevent the Reds from generating clear cut chances of their own.
Quarter Kings: For the fourth time in five years, the Reds will advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, continuing to establish themselves as one of Europe’s foremost footballing sides. Last season ended at this level as an injury-ravaged Liverpool failed to overcome a veteran Real Madrid side, but not a single team on the continent will want to face the Reds in the next round, while the Merseysiders will fancy their chances against anyone.
These Reds are mustard. Enjoy them while you can.
The Woodwork: Hell of a game. Kept Inter in it when their players couldn’t. Should consider signing ‘em up.
Mad Mateu: Typically one of this writer’s favourite referees because he’s never afraid to make a big call — and to be fair to the man, he did get one very large call absolutely spot on tonight — Antonio Mateu Lahoz was dreadful at Anfield, intermittently allowing play to run or handing out cards with little sense of consistency in either direction.
There wasn’t much sense of favouritism, but Lahoz failed to keep things under control, and while he made the right decision in sending Alexis Sanchez off for a second bookable offense, the ref could perhaps also be blamed for allowing things to get to that point.
The Streak: Despite being the better side in both legs and deservedly advancing to the next round, Liverpool lost their first game of 2022 tonight, and their first home game in a full year. After a run of 12 wins and three draws to start the year, Jürgen Klopp will have wanted to keep the unbeaten streak going, ideally to the end of the season, but as the man himself said after the match: “We try to lose the right games. If we could lose a game, then it would be tonight.”
Undoubtedly, the Reds will be looking to get back on the right track at the first opportunity.
What Happens Next
Of course, in this jam packed fixture list, the first opportunity is not far away, and Liverpool will travel south to face familiar banana peel Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday lunch time, before taking on Arsenal at the Emirates on Wednesday evening. Another pair of opportunities to put pressure on Manchester City, as the Sky Blues play their own Champions League tie in midweek.