Benfica 1-3 Liverpool: Clinical Reds take commanding lead

Liverpool scored twice in the first half to take command of this quarter-final tie before Luis Díaz grabbed a late clincher.

Liverpool took their chances to earn a 3-1 victory at Benfica in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Liverpool had won all four away games in the competition this season and were quickly into their stride, Odisseas Vlachodimos thwarting Mohamed Salah early on before the Reds made the breakthrough in the 17th minute when Ibrahima Konaté headed in his first UEFA Champions League goal from Andy Robertson’s corner.

The difference in ruthlessness in the first half was summed up when Nicolás Otamendi glanced Benfica’s first chance wide and the visitors responded by doubling their lead shortly after, Sadio Mané tapping in after Luis Díaz had met Trent Alexander-Arnold’s raking pass with a cushioned header.

Home coach Nélson Veríssimo rallied his side at the break, though, and they prised a foothold in the contest in the 49th minute when talisman Darwin Núñez pounced after Konaté failed to cut out Rafa Silva’s cross. Now it was Jürgen Klopp’s men coming under intense pressure, the Liverpool boss making an urgent triple substitution shortly after Everton was denied an equaliser by Alisson Becker.

The changes did the trick. The Reds regained their composure, soaked up further pressure from the home side, then struck late on when Naby Keïta slipped Díaz through the centre and the former Porto midfielder coolly skipped past Vlachodimos to add a crucial third goal.

*Carlos Machado, Benfica reporter*

If in the first half Liverpool were in cruise control, in the second Benfica reacted. Núñez’s goal was well taken for the hosts, who were pretty competitive for most of the second half. They had clear opportunities to draw the game but it wasn’t meant to be and that late Díaz goal could prove a decisive blow. Still, the light of hope is not dimmed just yet and today Benfica have proved they can perhaps get something from Anfield.

*Simon Hart, Liverpool reporter*

Liverpool’s fifth straight away win in this UEFA Champions League campaign – and tenth in their last 13 away from Anfield in Europe – was built on an excellent first-half display. If Konaté’s debut Champions League goal was offset by the error he made that offered Benfica a lifeline, Liverpool, with their prodigious physical powers, finished the stronger team with Díaz’s strike leaving them with one foot into what would be their third Champions League semi-final of the Klopp era.

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