Benfica 1 - 3 Liverpool
Benfica: Núñez 49'
Liverpool: Konaté 17', Mané 34, Díaz 87'
Liverpool head to Lisbon for the first leg of their UCL quarter-final matchup with SL Benfica. There was some thought that LFC might not play a full-strength lineup given they play Manchester City, in a match that may decide the Premier League title, on Sunday, but Jürgen Klopp opted to start most of his heavy hitters. This is a lineup that has the ability to put this tie to bed tonight if they can finish their chances.
The match started as many Liverpool matches do. Benfica looked content to sit back, absorb pressure, and try to hit Liverpool on the counter. Meanwhile, Liverpool controlled the ball and tried to break down a compact defensive front.
The Reds looked dangerous early with a pair of chances as the clock neared 10 minutes. Luis Díaz squeezed a pass through to Mohamed Salah on a rush, but the Egyptian’s touch let him down at the top of the box and prevented him from getting a shot away. A minute later Sadio Mané put Mo through again with a slick backheel, but he could only poke the shot wide.
After dominating the beginning of the match, Liverpool got their goal in the 17th minute. Ibrahima Konaté got on the end of Andy Robertson’s outswinging corner and coolly nodded it into the bottom corner.
The Reds kept up the pressure after the goal and nearly got a second when Naby Keïta put Díaz through, but the Colombian couldn’t beat the keeper. Fortunately, Díaz redeemed himself ten minutes later. Trent Alexander-Arnold found him with a lovely early cross over the top, and Díaz unselfishly headed it across for Mané to slot into an open goal and double the lead.
The sides traded chances to end the first 45. Trent played another brilliant ball forward to Salah, who couldn't get it over the keeper's arm. Benfica gathered the ball after the save and rushed the other way only for Darwin Núñez to sky his chance well over the bar.
Benfica got one back soon after the restart as Konaté whiffed trying to clear a low cross. Núñez was perfectly placed to collect and he easily slotted it home. It's the last thing the Reds wanted after such a dominant first half.
The home team and the home fans came alive after the goal, and it looked more likely Liverpool would concede an equalizer than regain their two goal advantage for the next 10 minutes or so.
Klopp took advantage of the Champions Leagues five substitution role and made a triple change at the hour mark to try and regain control, bringing Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, and Diogo Jota on for Thiago, Mané, and Salah.
The changes had the desired effect and the Reds were able to reassert themselves in the next few minutes. The goal gave Benfica confidence though, and they continued to show more threat than they did at any point in the first half, leading to a cagier affair than Liverpool were hoping for.
The next 25 minutes were largely uneventful despite some probing attacks at both ends. Then, Liverpool got their third after Keïta put Díaz through on goal in the 87th minute. Díaz collected the ball, rounded the onrushing keeper, and passed it into the open goal.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
It wasn't the dominant victory you hoped to see after that incredible first half, but a two goal advantage going into a second leg at Anfield leaves Liverpool as overwhelming favorites to advance to the semis. It's hard to imagine the Reds will lose by two in front of the Kop.
Who was Liverpool’s man of the match against Benfica?
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Trent Alexander Arnold