Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were on target as Liverpool put their Premier League struggles to one side and booked their spot in the last eight of the Champions League with a 2-0 win against RB Leipzig in Budapest.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds were playing the home leg of the tie at the Puskas Arena in Hungary due to COVID travel restrictions but never looked like needing the Anfield factor in Europe as they eased to a 4-0 victory on aggregate.
Liverpool looked lively throughout the first half but could not find a way past their former stopper, Peter Gulacsi who produced a string of fine saves to deny Diogo Jota and Salah. Leipzig’s best opportunity fell to Dani Olmo but he couldn’t find a way past Alisson.
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The German outfit hit the bar through Alexander Sorloth in the second half before the Merseysiders finally made the breakthrough when Salah claimed his 25th goal of the season 20 minutes from time.
The Reds then put the seal on their progress when Mane arrived on cue to touch home substitute Divock Origi’s cross four minutes later. It was their 100th goal in the competition under Klopp.
Liverpool will now turn their attention to their fight to get back into the top four race when they visit Wolves on Monday. Leipzig host Frankfurt in the Bundesliga on Sunday.
Liverpool save their best for Europe. For all of their travails on the domestic scene, Liverpool have been pretty solid on the continent this term. This was another assured showing in Europe despite some poor results of late and will surely help with their confidence going forward. There were plenty of positives for Klopp with Nat Phillips highly impressive at the back and Thiago producing the sort of showing that saw him star for Bayern Munich in this competition. However, the most notable impact was that of Fabinho back in his favoured holding role in the midfield. The Brazilian provided the shield for the defence as well as the safety net for the more forward-thinking players to express themselves. It was surely a performance that will see Klopp keep him there from now on.
Overall, it’s a case of job done for Liverpool and they will now be hoping they get what they would deem a favourable draw in the last eight. It’s still pretty much Champions League or bust this season and they are far from the favourites in the competition. Given their recent run they will be delighted to be in the hat for the draw for the quarter finals and semi finals on March 19.
Liverpool pretty much need a perfect run in the Premier League to drag themselves into any sort of contention for the top four, starting with Wolves away on Monday. After that they have an international break where Klopp will hope to work with the majority of his players to prepare for one big push in the final furlong of the campaign.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Fabinho (Liverpool). The midfielder was superb throughout. He protected the back four and allowed the likes of Thiago to probe and create more freely. It remains his best position despite some fine cameos in defence and helps give much-needed balance to the whole team.
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LIVERPOOL: Alisson 7, Alexander-Arnold 7, Phillips 8, Kabak 7, Robertson 6, Fabinho 8, Wijnaldum 7, Thiago 8, Mane 7, Salah 7, Jota 7. Subs: Keita 6, Origi 7, Milner n/a, Tsimikas n/a, Oxlade-Chamberlain n/a.
RB LEIPZIG: Gulacsi 8, Mukiele 6, Upamecano 6, Klosterman 6, Kampl 6, Adams 6, Olmo 7, Sabitzer 7, Nkunku 6, Poulsen 6, Forsberg 6. Subs: Sorloth 7, Hwang 7, Kluivert 7, Haidara 6.
10’ – RB LEIPZIG CHANCE! Leipzig surge forward down the left through Nkunku and almost snatch the lead. Liverpool struggle to clear their lines but Alisson makes a superb stop to keep out Olmo after Poulsen had failed to get a shot away.
19’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Gulacsi reacts smartly to palm Jota's header over the bar after the forward met a right-wing delivery.
24’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! How has that stayed out? Liverpool break at speed. Thiago acrobatically sends Salah free. He charges into the left side of the box but his shot is straight at Gulacsi. It falls for Mane on the rebound but his header miscues into the ground and Leipzig scramble it clear.
45+1’ – LIVERPOOL CHANCE! More frustration for Liverpool. Jota slots into the side netting after Upamecano made a complete mess of dealing with a high ball over the top.
65’ – RB LEIPZIG CHANCE! Sorloth's awkward header from Hwang's left-wing cross bounces off the bar and Liverpool just about survive.
70’ - GOAL! – Liverpool 1-0 RB Leipzig – ( Liverpool lead 3-0 on agg). Salah cuts on to his left foot from Jota's pass and coolly rolls it into the far corner.
74’ - GOAL! – Liverpool 2-0 RB Leipzig – ( Liverpool lead 4-0 on agg). It's two and all over! Mane comes flying in at the far post to touch home Origi's fine ball in from the right.
Salah has scored more goals than any other Premier League player in all competitions this season (25).
Only Cristiano Ronaldo (13) has scored more knockout stage goals in the UEFA Champions League since Sadio Mané’s debut season in the competition in 2017-18 than the Senegalese International (12).
Since Alisson made his UEFA Champions League debut in September 2017, the Brazilian has kept more clean sheets in the competition than any other goalkeeper (16).
In all European competitions under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool have now progressed from 12 of their 13 two-legged knockout ties (including qualifiers), only failing in last season’s last 16 against Atlético Madrid.
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