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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.

Watch the best of the action from Lisbon where Liverpool took a first-leg advantage thanks to goals by Ibrahima Konaté, Sadio Mané and Luis Díaz.
Highlights: Benfica 1-3 Liverpool

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

Key moments

17' Konaté heads Liverpool in front
34' Mané doubles lead from Díaz header
49'
Núñez sweeps in Rafa Silva cross
87' Luis Díaz rounds keeper to add late third

Match in brief: Finishing prowess proves the difference

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.

Sadio Mané is congratulated after making it 2-0
Sadio Mané is congratulated after making it 2-0UEFA via Getty Images

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.

PlayStation® Player of the Match: Luis Díaz (Liverpool)

Player of the Match: Luis Díaz highlights and reaction
Player of the Match: Luis Díaz highlights and reaction

"In a very difficult game and atmosphere, he decided the game. Strong and fast with the ball, clinical finishing and also worked very hard for his team in defence."
UEFA Technical Observer panel

As it happened: Benfica 1-3 Liverpool

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 captain applauds the travelling support after full time
Liverpool captain applauds the travelling support after full timePA Images via Getty Images

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.

Reaction 

 Andy Robertson, Liverpool full-back: "It was a tough game. We were on top first half and could have gone in a couple more up, then we wanted to keep it tight but they got a goal which lifted the crowd and we got a bit sloppy. The third goal was big."

Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool manager: "It was a tough game, what I expected. The crowd was there and we knew 2-0 is nothing, nice but not more. They score the goal and it was much more open than we wanted but the goalkeeper was probably the best player and made a couple of really good saves. We usually score more [in those situations] but we didn't, mainly because of the goalkeeper so credit to him."

Darwin Núñez salutes the crowd after pulling a goal back for Benfica
Darwin Núñez salutes the crowd after pulling a goal back for BenficaUEFA via Getty Images

Darwin Núñez, Benfica striker: "We wanted more but it was not possible. We are confident, this was demonstrated in the second half. Liverpool are a great team but we are not afraid of them. We will work to get a good result in the second leg."

Nélson Verissimo, Benfica coach: "The door is not closed but taking into account the third goal it becomes more difficult. We tried to explore the weaknesses they had and at certain times that happened. In the second half we were better than in the first."

Michael Owen, BT Sport

"It's a brilliant result for Liverpool, that goal from Díaz to give them a two-goal difference is huge. At 2-1, those Benfica players would be thinking they are still in it. Benfica showed against Ajax they can dig in but Liverpool eventually got the job done."

Key stats

  • Benfica are without a win in their last nine Champions League matches against English clubs (D2 L7), since a 2-0 away victory against Liverpool in March 2006.
  • The Eagles have not won any of their previous nine matches in the quarter-finals of the Champions League (D3 L6).
  • Mané became Liverpool's second top scorer in the Champions League (group stage to final) on 22, moving one ahead of Steven Gerrard.
  • Thirteen of Mané's last 19 goals in the Champions League have been scored in the knockout phase.
  • Liverpool have won seven of their last eight Champions League matches against Portuguese clubs (D1).
  • Liverpool won each of their five Champions League away games this season.

Fantasy star performers

Luis Díaz – 12
Ibrahima Konaté – 10
Naby Keita – 8

Line-ups

Benfica: Vlachodimos; Gilberto, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Weigl, Taarabt (Meite 70), Everton (Yaremchuk 82); Núñez, Gonçalo Ramos (João Mário 86), Rafa Silva

Liverpool: Alisson Becker; Alexander-Arnold (Gomez 89), Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita (Milner 89), Thiago Alcântara (Henderson 61); Salah (Jota 61), Mané (Firmino 61), Díaz