Liverpool cruised into the quarter-final of the Champions League after a 2-0 victory over Red Bull Leipzig in Hungary.
Goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane gave the six times winners a deserved victory over the Bundesliga side. Were it not for poor finishing, with Diogo Jota, Mane, and Salah all guilty of blowing big chances, the Reds would have won by a far bigger margin.
With Fabinho back marshaling the midfield — allowing Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak to form a central defensive pair of actual defenders — the Premier League side were c0mfortable throughout and advanced with a 4-0 aggregate victory.
From early on, it was clear that Liverpool were in menacing form. Peter Gulacasi, a former youth team goalkeeper at Anfield, denied both Jota — with a header from a corner — and Salah early doors. The Egyptian was sprung in behind by an acrobatic through-ball from Thiago. His shot was straight at the Hungarian, though, and Mane — stooping to head the rebound — made a meal of the second ball, and Leipzig escaped.
Another chance for the nominal home team came when Mane swiveled to receive a pass from Jota and this opened the German’s up. The Senegalese played a ball into the path of Trent Alexander Arnold and cantering into the box the right-back aimed a cross at Salah. With the Egyptian poised to tap into an empty net, Dayot Upamecano cleared the ball away and the Reds still hadn’t capitalized on their dominance.
Leipzig themselves occasionally looked threatening on the counter-attack, but the English team — with Georginio Wijnaldum ever aware — always had enough numbers back to nip their attacks in the bud.
The teams went into the break at 0-0, but Liverpool should have scored on the brink of the whistle. A long ball into Salah saw Upamecano misread the flight of the ball and, after the ensuing melee, the ball fell to Jota with just Gulacsi to beat. Uncharacteristically, the Portuguese hit the side netting, and the halftime score read: Liverpool 0-0 RB Leipzig.
The Reds started the second half in a similar manner, but they were unable to turn their possession and chances into goals until 20 minutes from the end — with the Germans being close when Alexander Sorloth hit the bar with a header — when Salah’s delicate finish flew past Gulacsi.
A beautiful outside of the foot pass from Mane found Jota and the Portuguese dribbled towards the goal before unleashing Salah with a pass. The number 11 stood up Upamecano, cutting in from the right channel and then finished low into the bottom right corner. It was the first time the front three combined effectively in the game and it leads to a goal.
Jurgen Klopp, with the tie realistically over, made a double change with Divock Origi and Naby Keita coming on for Jota and Thiago respectively and the two replacements played an immediate role in the Reds’ second goal.
Keita unleashed Origi on the right-hand side with a clever pass and the Belgian drove a brilliant ball across the face of the goal for Mane and the Senegalese made no mistake by tapping him for his second goal of the tie.
It was an excellent performance and a tonic for their recent league struggles.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Kabak, Phillips, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Wijnaldum, Salah, Jota, Mane.
Replacements: Keita for Thiago, Origi for Jota, Tsimikas for Robertson, Milner for Wijnaldum, Oxlade Chamberlain for Wijnaldum.
Subs not used: Adrian, Davies, Davies, Williams, R.Williams, Jones, Shaqiri.