Benfica 1-3 Liverpool: Jürgen Klopp claimed the tie was not over but his public exercise in maintaining Liverpool’s focus held little consolation for Benfica.

Jürgen Klopp claimed the tie was not over but his public exercise in maintaining Liverpool’s focus held little consolation for Benfica.

“They fought for their lives after we opened the door for them,” the Liverpool manager accurately said. He omitted the part about Luis Díaz closing it on them again.

For 25 second-half minutes Liverpool were besieged and unnerved in Lisbon. Unexpectedly so. “It is an away game in the Champions League quarter-final,” said Klopp. “If the game was easy, there would be something wrong with the competition.”

His team made the rest of the contest look comfortable, however, and the semi-finals surely beckon following a commanding win delivered by Ibrahima Konaté, Sadio Mané and their January recruit from Porto.

Díaz’s 87th-minute strike extinguished the noise that Benfica’s stirring second-half recovery had generated inside Estádio da Luz. It may also have extinguished the slim hope that Darwin Núñez’s goal offered. Klopp added:“It was clear when they scored that the crowd would be back and the atmosphere would be good. Good teams tend to use that. The game was slightly more open than we wished but in the end we scored and I think everyone would agree we could have scored more goals and should have. The best player of Benfica was the goalie, which says a lot. It is half-time, we are two goals up. It is not closed.”

Liverpool were a model of composure from the first whistle, with neither the raucous atmosphere inside the stadium nor six changes from the team that beat Watford in the Premier League on Saturday able to disturb their rhythm. Such is the strength at Klopp’s disposal as they enter a defining phase of the campaign. His team were in almost complete control throughout the first half; quicker and stronger in the challenge, better structured and the more cohesive attacking unit. But for a few lapses in front of goal and interventions by the Benfica goalkeeper, Odisseas Vlachodimos, the quadruple chasers would have had the tie sewn up by half-time. They had to settle for a two-goal cushion instead.

Vlachodimos denied Naby Keïta and Mohamed Salah early on and there was an inevitability about the 350th away goal of Klopp’s Liverpool reign, although not the identity of the goalscorer. When Andy Robertson swung a corner over from the left Konaté was given far too much space inside the area and powered an unstoppable header into the bottom corner. Former Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen missed the initial header, while the diminutive Everton was for some reason marking the towering Konaté. The £36m summer signing from RB Leipzig cared little as he celebrated the first goal of his Liverpool career.

The Benfica faithful gave Luis Díaz a tough time all night but the former Porto winger scored late on to seal Liverpool’s win.

The visitors were dominant, a second goal seemingly as inevitable as the first, but survived a scare when Everton’s corner offered Nicolas Otamendi an opportunity to equalise with a close-range header. The former Manchester City defender failed to connect and paid within seconds as the precise right foot of Trent Alexander-Arnold carved open the Benfica defence. The right-back, back in the side following a recent hamstring injury, swept a beautiful ball between Gilberto and Otamendi and into the path of the in-rushing Díaz.

The Colombia international showed good awareness to head across goal to Mané, who made no mistake with a simple finish at the end of a superb move. Another brilliant Alexander-Arnold pass gave Salah sight of goal on the stroke of half-time. Played in behind the Benfica left-back, Alejandro Grimaldo, Salah was clean through and had time to pick his spot to Vlachodimos’s left, but the keeper saved well to prevent the forward scoring for the ninth European away game in succession.

A 3-0 interval lead would not have flattered Liverpool, such was their superiority, yet their procession unexpectedly ran aground immediately after the restart as Benfica re-emerged with far greater intensity and belief. The caretaker coach, Nelson Verissimo, must have been in superb form during the break.

Suddenly Núñez was wreaking havoc at centre-forward, albeit aided and abetted by a bad mistake from Konaté, and it was Liverpool’s turn to flounder. The hosts were given renewed purpose when Rafa Silva broke down the right and centred low into the area. Konaté had the ball covered only to miss his clearance, and turned around in horror to see the cross land at the feet of Núñez. The Benfica striker found the far corner of Alisson’s goal with ease.

Núñez then shot over from distance and headed over another cross from Silva as Benfica pressed for a swift equaliser. Everton forced Alisson to parry from distance and, as the pressure intensified, Klopp responded with a triple substitution. The introduction of Jordan Henderson, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino helped restore order, although not before Núñez had a penalty appeal waved away when he raced away down the left and checked inside Virgil van Dijk. The Liverpool defender stuck out an arm to halt the striker’s run but the Spanish referee and VAR were unmoved by Núñez’s impassioned appeals for a spot-kick.

Benfica’s threat dissipated thereafter and Díaz restored Liverpool’s comfortable advantage with three minutes remaining. Keïta sent the winger clear of the Benfica defence with a threaded pass that took a slight touch off Otamendi. Díaz did the rest, rounding the advancing Vlachodimos before finishing expertly. Perhaps it was the sight of Díaz celebrating in front of them that prompted Benfica fans to pelt Robertson with lighters and plastic flag poles when he took a corner minutes later. “Maybe it will help them stop smoking,” he quipped. Liverpool had a good answer for everything Benfica threw at them.







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