Wednesday, 29 May, 2024

Liverpool in sight of semis after putting three past Benfica


Lisbon, Apr 7 : Liverpool took charge of their Champions League quarter-final against Benfica on Tuesday as Sadio Mane, Ibrahima Konate and Luis Diaz gave them a 3-1 lead after the first leg in Lisbon.

Konate nodded in his first Liverpool goal from a corner before Mane tapped home to put the visitors in command at the Estadio da Luz.
Benfica made a game of it early in the second half when a Konate error allowed the lively Darwin Nunez to pull one back, but Diaz, who was superb all night, added a third to put Liverpool in sight of the semis.

"They fought for their lives. We opened the door a little bit for them," said Jurgen Klopp. "We scored a third one and I think everyone agrees we could and should have scored more."
Liverpool will be confident of finishing the job at Anfield next week, with Klopp comfortable enough to take off Mohamed Salah, Mane and Thiago Alcantara after an hour. Despite a 20-minute surge in the second half, Benfica were clearly second best.

They came into the tie dreaming of inflicting another upset, having already seen off Barcelona in the group stage and Ajax in the last 16, and they began with the intent of under-dogs, as Alex Grimaldo stirred the crowd with a thumping, sliding challenge.

But the initial exertion soon faded and Liverpool took control, the chances coming with increasing regularity as the first half wore on.The goal in the 17th minute was straightforward, Konate towering over Everton Soares at a corner and heading into the bottom of the net.

In the 34th minute, Liverpool scored again, Adel Taarabt's sloppy touch punished by Alexander-Arnold's chipped ball forward towards Diaz, whose smart header across give Mane a tap-in.Benfica pulled a goal back shortly after the restart as Konate air-kicked Rafa Silva's cross and Nunez pounced.

Benfica were transformed, as Nunez twice went close before the Uruguayan wanted a penalty for being stopped by Konate. While the fans were bouncing, urging their team on, Klopp took Salah, Mane and Thiago off, an indication of the superiority he felt his team still held in the tie.

The substitutions knocked Benfica out of their stride and as the game drifted towards the finish, Liverpool snatched a third, Keita slipping in Diaz, who rounded the goalkeeper and slid into an empty net.

City take slender lead over Atletico:
Pep Guardiola praised Manchester City's patience after Kevin De Bruyne broke Atletico Madrid's stubborn resistence to clinch a 1-0 win in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Guardiola's side spent much of the night banging their heads against the red and white wall of Atletico's massed defence at the Etihad Stadium.

But Guardiola sent on Phil Foden midway through the second half and his sublime pass teed up De Bruyne to finally reward City for their territorial dominance. "I didn't expect to win three or four nil. I knew who we were facing. They have been together for many years," Guardiola said.

"They defend so well, so compact and so deep. We were patient. You have to be against these teams. They want you to be anxious.
"It's a good result. Unfortunately we had a couple more chances with Kevin to score again."

The Spanish champions will believe they can cause another surprise in the second leg in Madrid on April 13.
"It's clear we were playing against an extraordinary opponent. We have to use a great way of defending and without being embarrassed," Simeone said.

"We need to be better, see if we can have the ball a bit more in the second leg. Perhaps we can create more difficulties. We are still in the tie."

City have no margin for error over the next two weeks as the Premier League leaders host Liverpool, just a point behind them in the title race, on Sunday.
They head to Madrid next week before facing Liverpool again in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley three days later.

When Aymeric Laporte headed wastefully over from Riyad Mahrez's corner, Guardiola had seen enough and he sent on Foden, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus. Foden's arrival was an inspired move as the England forward played a key role when City at last broke through in the 70th minute.

Taking possession outside the Atletico area, Foden shimmied away from two defenders and slipped a precise pass to De Bruyne, who timed his run perfectly to drill a low strike into the far corner from a tight angle.