Liverpool edge past Benfica: 5 things we learned as Reds set up semi-final with Villarreal


Liverpool edge past Benfica: 5 things we learned as Reds set up semi-final with Villarreal

Liverpool prepare for Benfica second legLiverpool progressed into the Champions League semi-finals despite a scare from Benfica. Jurgen Klopp’s sid

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Liverpool prepare for Benfica second leg

Liverpool progressed into the Champions League semi-finals despite a scare from Benfica. Jurgen Klopp’s side came into the second leg at Anfield with an impressive 3-1 aggregate lead secured at the Estadio da Luz in the preceding week.

And the contest began in the same fashion as the reverse fixture as Ibrahima Konate leapt highest to head home the opening goal of the contest for the 2019 Champions League winners. Immediately after the Frenchman’s opening goal, Benfica striking sensation Darwin Nunez burst clear of the Liverpool backline and lobbed Alisson impeccably, only for his wonderful finish to be ruled out for offside.

But the Merseysiders did not learn from their initial warning as Diogo Goncalves prodded the ball into the path of Goncalo Ramos to smash the Portuguese giants within two goals of extra-time. Fortunately for the Reds, Klopp ensured his side did not repeat the initial mistakes Real Madrid made against Chelsea, as the Merseysiders quickly killed of the contest in the opening exchanges of the second half.

Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos spilled a simple gathering, prompting a rushed clearance into the feet of Diogo Jota, who expertly guided the ball for Roberto Firmino to prod home from close range. Firmino added a second soon after, but the Portuguese side were not undeterred as substitute Roman Yaremchuk timed his run perfectly, before rounding Alisson to make the score 3-2 on the night. However, this was astonishly followed up with a late equaliser from in demand hitman Nunez, who beat the offside trap to equalise for the Portuguese giants. 

He handed another terrifying scare with a sumptuous volley that was saved well by Alisson. However, the Portuguese side simply ran out of time. Here are five things Express Sport learned as Liverpool set up a Champions League semi-final clash against Villarreal. 

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Firmino scored a second half brace (Image: GETTY)

Nunez is Premier League quality

Nunez is expected to be one of the hottest transfer properties in world football this summer. And the Uruguayan proved exactly why he is sought after by the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.

The £60m rated striker thought he had added to his remarkable 32 goal haul when he burst in behind the Liverpool defence and scooped a wonderful finish over Alisson and into the back of the net. Unfortunately, the timing of his run was marginally late, as he was only just caught out by the Reds’ razor-sharp offside trap.

Nunez’s intelligent movement, speed, and predatory instincts more than compensate for his modest natural frame. While so many strikers look to drop between the lines and overload the opposing midfield, Nunez is an old-fashioned hitman who will remain on the last shoulder of every defender, as he proved with his excellent finish in the second half to make the score 3-3 on the night.

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Nunez’s wonderful finish was only just ruled out for offside (Image: GETTY)

King Konate

Ibrahima Konate has had to content himself with learning from Joel Matip and Van Dijk from the sidelines. However, the £36m summer signing looks ready to take centre stage at Anfield.

He followed up his wonderful header at the Estadio da Luz – his first ever goal in a Liverpool shirt – with another equally fantastic header to double his goal tally. His movement in the penalty area, coupled with his excellent timing and reading of the corner, means he will be a nightmare for opposition defenders.

Konate provided the perfect finish for Kostas Tsimikas’ equally outstanding corner to really put the Reds in the driving seat. Matip and Gomez will likely be firm competition at Anfield, but the former RB Leipzig man is certainly staking a firm claim for himself at the most important time of the campaign.

Alexander-Arnold’s perfect back-up

Considering Gomez’s best years at Anfield have been alongside Van Dijk at central defence, it would be reasonable to label his deployment at right back as the only weakness in Klopp’s starting eleven. But while his defensive instinct and naturally taller frame suggests he is the ultimate contrast to his fellow England counterpart, Gomez also demonstrated that he can contribute in the forward areas for the Reds.

He whipped in a sumptuous cross for Diogo Jota to nod home at the back post, only for the Portuguese ace to be penalised for fouling his marker. The former Charlton Athletic defender was not afraid to carry the ball forward and join in with Reds attack to the likely relief and happiness of Klopp.

His ventures forward penned Benfica into their own half, suffocating any attempts to catch Liverpool on the counterattack. The possibility of Gomez displacing Alexander-Arnold any time soon remains unlikely, but Klopp and Liverpool fans can be safe in the knowledge that the right back spot is in safe hands.

Firmino scored twice to ensure Klopp's side's passage into the next round

Firmino scored twice to ensure Klopp’s side’s passage into the next round (Image: GETTY)

Liverpool’s supreme squad depth

Klopp made seven changes from the Reds’ 2-2 draw against Manchester City. Considering the thrilling intensity and speed of their draw with Pep Guardiola’s side, the rotation was hardly surprising.

But while seven changes would likely weaken most teams, forcing them to deploy the weaker and more inexperienced individuals within their ranks, Klopp was able to call upon a very strong side. Experience and technical quality were ever present throughout Klopp’s starting eleven, despite the fact Trent

Despite missing the likes of Fabinho, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Thiago Alcantara, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah, Klopp deployed a team that looked anything but vulnerable. If this starting eleven is anything to go by, then the Quadruple is well and truly on at Anfield.

The Quadruple is on

Klopp has repeatedly refused to divulge into any insinuations that an unprecedented Quadruple is on the cards for the Reds. However, Klopp may find it hard to deny this historic success is possible.

Having already secured the League Cup, Liverpool are firmly in the running to win the FA Cup, the Premier league, and the Champions League. As well as winning all of their remaining fixtures of the season, the Reds will also need to rely on Pep Guardiola’s side to drop at least two Premier League points if they are going to win all four titles.

However, very few would bet against this Liverpool side who are competing and winning on all fronts. Of course, Liverpool could still finish the season without adding to their February triumph, but very few would bet against this team on any given day.