Liverpool beat Benfica: Four things we learned as Salah struggles despite Reds winning 3-1

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Liverpool take a two-goal advantage back to Anfield in their Champions League quarter-final with Benfica after winning the first leg 3-1 in Portugal on Tuesday night. Ibrahima Konate and Sadio Mane scored for the Reds in a comfortable first half but Konate’s error allowed Darwin Nunez to get Benfica back into it after the break. But Luis Diaz rounded the goalkeeper to make it 3-1 late on and put Liverpool in full command of the tie. Express Sport looks at five main talking points from the match.

Konate’s mixed fortunes

Goalscorer Konate was as good as any player on the pitch in the first half, and not just because he scored. He took his header well of course but defensively the 22-year-old was sublime and was untroubled by Nunez.

Typical then that the Frenchman, who is still unbeaten in 20 Liverpool appearances (17 wins, three draws), made the mistake that invited Benfica back into this tie early in the second half. He failed to position his body properly to clear and missed the ball completely, with Nunez taking his chance well after the ball fell his way.

It was the first real blip for the £36million defender since his summer move to Anfield and Liverpool had a much tougher second half than they needed to because of it. Fortunately for Konate his team-mates have quite the knack for winning games like these, and they restored their two-goal lead with a few minutes to go.

Darwin Nunez pounces

Linked with Manchester United and Arsenal, a lot of eyes were on Nunez. The Uruguayan was talked up by the BT Sport pundits pre-match, with former Premier League marksmen Peter Crouch and Michael Owen speaking highly of his talents.

But bar one tidy flick past Andy Robertson down Benfica’s right-hand side, he struggled to live up to the hype in a quiet first half. Then, as the very best strikers do, he got his first opportunity and he took it.

The South American frontman, who is deceptively quick despite his height, took one touch to kill the ball dead and then dispatched into the far corner to move on to 28 goals in 35 games this season. A switch to the Premier League surely beckons.

Salah struggles continue

Going into this game, Salah had played 1,898 minutes in 2022 alone for Liverpool and Egypt combined. This was seen as a night, particularly with Manchester City lying in wait on Sunday, where the Egyptian might have been rested.

But Jurgen Klopp pre-match declared he has no concerns over Salah’s form, and instead backed his top scorer with another start. Yet Salah now has just one goal in his last seven games and only two open play goals in 12 since his return from the Africa Cup of Nations. It was no surprise he departed on 60 minutes.

He’s still very much a threat and his dip in goalscoring consistency hasn’t affected his team’s winning form thanks to their depth up top. But Liverpool will hope, in their pursuit of more trophies after their Carabao Cup win in February, that he can soon rediscover his finishing touch.

Diaz silences boo boys

You’d be forgiven for thinking Benfica’s entire team had body doubles in the first half and then their real selves in the second. The hosts were outclassed in the first 45 and it looked as though Liverpool might go on and win 4-0 or 5-0. But the away team improved significantly after scoring as they piled pressure on their Premier League opponents.

For a spell at 2-1, it looked as though Benfica might draw level. They had a penalty shout when Nunez went down in the box while tussling with Virgil van Dijk, but the referee and the VAR had none of it.

And then, having been booed all night for his history with rivals Porto, Diaz latched on to Naby Keita’s deflected pass to round Odysseas Vlachodimos and give Liverpool a two-goal lead to take back home. Though Inter Milan won at Anfield in the previous round, that is surely not an advantage that they will give up.



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