In the league this year, Liverpool have often found themselves frustrated by sides willing to sit back and absorb pressure. Sides that allow the Reds to have the ball, challenging a Liverpool side missing half an eleven’s worth of key players to injury to break them down.
With a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of their Round of 16 Champions League tie against RB Leipzig, though, the situation was reversed. Liverpool had an advantage, and Julian Nagelsmann admitted his side didn’t couldn’t find the answer.
“Liverpool were the better team today and deserved to get through,” Leipzig’s manager admitted. “We didn’t do enough to score the goals we needed. Especially in the early stages it took us a long time to get used to the game because they put less pressure on today.”
Leipzig had to attack, or at least had to try to attack, and with Liverpool set up to counter the German side never especially looked like getting the breakthrough they needed—and in the meantime the Reds had time and space to build their attacks on the counter.
It was more proof after a first leg where Leipzig might have been accused of playing a somewhat naive game that this Liverpool side, for all their injury struggles, still have the talent necessary to handily beat any side that plays a more open game against them.
In the league, against sides that sit back, it may not be enough. On Wednesday it was, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané looking more like their old selves—and leaving Liverpool fans hoping that despite their domestic struggles, they might yet have hope in Europe.
“Their two goals showed the great individual quality,” Nagelsmann added. “What Salah and Mané do is really unique. You could tell we had too much respect for their counter for long stretches. We have to accept that. We will let it sink in and reflect for a few hours.”