It’s official; no team across Europe is in better form than Liverpool, as the Reds have been different gravy since the turn of the year. In performances and results, Jurgen Klopp’s side has consistently proven that they have the character and temperament to rise to the occasion.
Liverpool’s hopes of winning the quadruple may sound premature. However, they have already wrapped up the Carabao Cup and are among the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League favorites.
They are also in contention to win the Premier League, where they sit just a point behind leaders Manchester City. On Wednesday, they made light work of Benfica to move closer to their European target.
Reds too good for Benfica
Klopp’s side traveled to the Estadio da Luz as favorites, but they still needed to work hard to escape Portugal with the victory.
Having raced into a two-goal lead in the first half thanks to strikes from Ibrahima Konate and Sadio Mane, the Reds faced an onslaught early in the second half. The pressure intensified when Darwin Nunez pulled one back for Benfica four minutes after the restart.
However, Liverpool held their own and repelled everything thrown at them. The English side managed to take the wind out of their opponents’ sail, regaining control and putting the result beyond doubt late when Luiz Diaz made it 3-1.
Benfica fought hard and gave Liverpool a run for its money. In the end, though, the Reds were too good and deserved to win.
A two-goal advantage from the first leg means Liverpool is all but through to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
For a team that has lost just once in 21 matches in 2022, it would take a monumental collapse for the Reds to throw away such a healthy lead. As much as Benfica won’t be pushovers when they visit Anfield, overturning a 3-1 deficit seems too far for the Portuguese champions.
Klopp’s modesty is admirable, but the truth is that Liverpool has one foot in the semi-finals. It would be a massive surprise if they let their first-leg advantage slip at Anfield.
With seven changes to the side, including a new back four, it was a slow start for Liverpool as they presided over a two-goal lead from the first leg, with Benfica the more threatening early on.
But with the home crowd behind them, the Reds soon grew into the game, particularly with Diogo Jota looking dangerous on the left flank, occupying his more natural broad role as Luis Diaz shifted to the right.
The opener came for Liverpool in uncanny circumstances. Ibrahima Konate again broke the deadlock against Benfica with a simple header, towering over Nicolas Otamendi to nod in a Kostas Tsimikas corner.
Benfica was back in it within 11 minutes, though, with the 20-year-old Goncalo Ramos benefiting from a lucky bounce off James Milner and finding himself in space to make it 1-1 on the night.
A Milner clearance then put Roberto Firmino in a similar position. Still, despite Odysseas Vlachodimos being stranded outside the box, the No. 9 opted against a chip and instead threaded a ball through for Diaz that was well blocked.
Benfica was the brighter side upon the restart, but Liverpool was soon back ahead, with a series of errors, kicked off by Jan Vertonghen, leading to Firmino touching in Jota’s scuffed shot.
The squad’s strength then showed as Jurgen Klopp sent on the trio of Mohamed Salah, Fabinho, and Thiago with the aggregate scoreline at 5-2, as minutes are managed ahead of the FA Cup semi-final.
Two players who started the game combined for the third, though, with Tsimikas again the provider and Firmino the scorer as he touched home a brilliant volley from the left-back free-kick.
To make the tie enjoyable, Roman Yaremchuk profited from slack play from Joe Gomez and Alisson as he raced on to a through ball and converted for 3-2.