Lisbon: Liverpool took a firm grip of their Champions League tie with Benfica as goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz earned them a 3-1 victory in Lisbon in their quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.
Konate opened the scoring with a close-range header from a corner and Mane extended Liverpool’s lead from a Diaz assist 30 minutes into what was an one-sided first half, with Mohamed Salah, Diaz and Naby Keita all passing up great scoring chances.
Yet five minutes after the break, 22-year-old French defender Konate completely missed a cross and allowed in-form striker Darwin Nunez to score and put Benfica, roared on by a sold-out Estadio da Luz, back into the game.
The hosts gained in confidence and briefly took charge but former Porto winger Diaz, who never lost a match against their bitter rivals Benfica, scored on the counter-attack after a Keita through ball.
Diogo Jota still had a chance to extend Liverpool’s lead further in added time but Benfica keeper Odysseas Vlachodimos denied them a fourth with his left leg in a one-on-one.
The 27-year-old Greek was responsible for at least five important saves that denied Liverpool a bigger win.
“It was a tough game but we had plenty opportunities to score more after the second, couldn’t do that, got sloppy and allowed them to get back into the game lifted by the crowd,” Liverpool left back Andy Robertson told BT Sport.
“Luis Diaz got a nice reception from the start, playing for one of their rivals, but a good goal for him and a two-goal cushion makes a difference. Hopefully we can get the job done.” Liverpool faced pressure at times, mainly from the Portuguese league’s top scorer Nunez who showed why he is one of the most-coveted young strikers in Europe.