Liverpool are through after their revival under Jürgen Klopp continued with a 2-1 defeat of Bordeaux and our match reporter Simon Hart suggests some reasons why.
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Benteke shows what he can do
The blow of Daniel Sturridge's latest injury setback was softened for Liverpool by a match-winning turn from Christian Benteke. The big Belgian struck a brilliant goal to earn his team victory – killing Nathaniel Clyne's cross with his first touch, then flashing the ball into the net on the half-volley with his second – and had two other goals disallowed as well as winning the Reds' penalty.
Benteke has begun only one Premier League game so far for Jürgen Klopp but has three goals since the German arrived and, according to compatriot Simon Mignolet, the No9 has a key role to play. "I know what he can do and what he can mean for the team and it is not only attacking and scoring goals but also holding the ball up for us and that is important," the goalkeeper said. "When you are leading 2-1 and you have that outlet to relieve the pressure it is very important and defensively he can help us out as well with corners and free-kicks."
Consistency may take time
Liverpool have enjoyed superb victories at Chelsea (3-1) and Manchester City (4-1) under Klopp but have yet to replicate those displays at Anfield. Last night was a step in the right direction – they scored more than one in a home match for the first time since September and had the chances to win more handsomely – although James Milner thinks it will take time to achieve a consistently high level of performance.
"If you can go to Man City and put them under the pressure we did it is a sign of improvement, but it is getting that consistency and being able to do it game on game," said the midfielder. "The home fixtures are different because teams will come and sit back against you, so that is a different type of game and another area we can improve, step by step."
Tired legs take toll
One obvious factor in Bordeaux coming into the game more in the latter stages and threatening an equaliser was tired legs in the Liverpool camp according to Milner, the Reds' captain and scorer of their penalty equaliser. Klopp wants his side to play at a high tempo and push forward, not letting opponents settle into games, but after doing this so well at City, they ran out of steam a little here.
"We can play a lot better than tonight but probably the weekend took a lot out of us," said Milner. "There were a few tired bodies out there second half but to come through is pleasing."
Klopp embraces European challenge
Klopp's winning sense of humour came to the fore in his post-match press conference when he made fun of what he had identified, from afar in Germany, as a certain English ambivalence towards the UEFA Europa League.
This is a tournament the Liverpool manager is taking seriously and, with qualification for the knockout phase secured with this Group B result, he suggested light-heartedly that the press do the same: "Everyone gave me the feeling [like] 'You take your best squad to Kazan?' and things like this. But I am very happy to be qualified, the team is very happy to be qualified, the club is very happy to be qualified so you can be happy to be qualified!"