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Digging Deeper Into Liverpool Advancing To The Champions League Semi-Final Over Benfica

The Reds advance 6-4 on aggregate, after drawing 3-3 in a wild match against Benfica

Liverpool FC v SL Benfica Quarter Final Leg Two - UEFA Champions League Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

There’s not many times in this sport where you can walk away happy as a calm after seeing a 3-3 draw at Anfield. But this Liverpool team is good enough to put themselves into a position where they can make seven changes from the weekend and still have enough good vibes to see them through to the next round.

There’s something to be said about the manager trusting his squad to get the job done given the the context of where Liverpool is at in their season. Everything needs to be looked at through that lens, with Liverpool having played Manchester City on Sunday and having to play the semifinal of the FA Cup this coming Saturday.

Maybe there’s also something to be said about how Liverpool’s “B-team” did under pressure. The offside flag went up about 93 times tonight, so that’s a little bizarre. But they didn’t lose and probably should’ve won the match on their own merits. But sometimes unlucky things happen (see, Benfica’s first goal) and I’m sure no one is really worried when their head hits the pillow tonight.

Now join us as we examine some of the narratives, tactics, reactions, and questions Liverpool will be dealing with and the fans will be talking about in the aftermath.


Winners and Losers

Winners

Kostas Tsmikas

The backup leftback at Liverpool would probably be a top five leftback in the Premier League if he played for any other team. But, he plays behind Andrew Robertson and he’s the best in the world at the position. Tsmikas was absolutely fantastic tonight against Benfica. The Greek Scouser registered two assists and was Liverpool’s best player going forward in attack. There’s going to be a few times the rest of this season where Robbo will need a rest, and Liverpool fans can rest assured than Tsmikas won’t be a drop-off in quality.

Roberto Firmino

Much of the narrative surrounding Liverpool lately has obviously focused on all of the attacking talent at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal. The odd man out recently has been Firmino, but after tonight he may be causing his manager to rethink some thinks. The Brazilian scored a brace against Benfica, which were his first goals at Anfield in almost two years. He looks fresh and rejuvenated.

A moment for how good this team is

It’s really important to say that Liverpool haven’t won anything but the League Cup so far this season. By this time next month that could be the only thing Liverpool wins all year. However, we are witnessing history before our very eyes and you need to be able to enjoy the ride.

Losers

Too many changes?

It’s hard to be too upset about the score line tonight, given that Liverpool all but qualified for the UEFA Champions League semi-final in the 21st minute when Ibrahima Konate thumped home his headed goal. However, the rest of the match was just sort of silly and disjointed from Liverpool, especially in the midfield and the defense.

Klopp said after the game, “I made 7 changes. I decided that yesterday. We had 15-20 minutes to put it right, I liked the way we did it, the only problem was when we lost the ball.”

Perhaps a more familiar defensive unit doesn’t allow so many through balls in behind or is a bit sharper with the offside trap. Maybe Curtis Jones or Harvey Elliott is a bit tidier on the ball than James Milner was. All of this is just speculation and needs to be hedged largely do to the fact that Benfica’s goals were all very, very marginal calls of onside/offside.


What Happens Next?

I wish I knew. I really did. But not knowing what happens next is where the joy and the fun comes from. Tonight Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp are in their 3rd semi-final in four years. They’ve got an FA Cup semi-final on Saturday against Manchester City. Oh, and they’re a point back in the league with seven matches to play. I really don’t know what happens from here, but there’s no one I’d rather take this ride with that that man and these Reds. This ends in the land of milk and honey or in pain, I’m not sure which, but I’ll go to either with these boys.