Sadio Mane, Liverpool Beat Benfica 3-1 in Champions League Quarterfinal Leg 1

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 5, 2022

LISBON, PORTUGAL - APRIL 05: Sadio Mane of Liverpool celebrates with teammate Ibrahima Konate after scoring their side's second goal  during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One match between SL Benfica and Liverpool FC at Estadio da Luz on April 05, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
Carlos Rodrigues - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Liverpool secured a vital 3-1 victory over Benfica in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal clash.

Luis Diaz put the final touch on the win with an 87th-minute goal at Estadio da Luz.

As expected, Liverpool wasted little time in taking the match to Benfica. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah nearly combined for the opener in the ninth minute, only for Odysseas Vlachodimos to make the save.

The Greek goalkeeper couldn't react fast enough to keep Ibrahima Konate's header out of the back of the net in the 17th minute. It was the first goal for Konate since joining Liverpool last summer.

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

What a time for Ibrahima Konaté to score his first <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UCL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UCL</a> goal!<br>Liverpool make the perfect start. 👌 <a href="https://t.co/N4PJQrLqIp">pic.twitter.com/N4PJQrLqIp</a>

Nicolas Otamendi nearly equalized from a corner to Benfica in the 33rd minute. Liverpool quickly showed how costly failing to capitalize on a scoring opportunity can be for its opponent.

In the 34th minute, Trent Alexander-Arnold floated a long ball to Diaz, who had the presence of mind to head it across to Sadio Mane for an easy goal.

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

Sadio Mane scores his 15th goal of the season, easy as you like. 💫 <a href="https://t.co/7f7MKfSWRc">pic.twitter.com/7f7MKfSWRc</a>

With the tally, Mane notched his 22nd Champions League goal for the club, passing Steven Gerrard for second all time.

The first half was a perfect showcase of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp. 

Seb Stafford-Bloor @SebSB

Benfica haven’t even played that badly. Liverpool just have so many gears to go through when they attack.

Squawka News @SquawkaNews

Benfica 0-2 Liverpool HT:<br><br>xG: 0.4-1.9<br>Shots: 4-11<br>Shots on target: 1-6<br>Touches in opp. box: 4-19<br>Possession: 35.6%-64.4%<br>Offsides: 2-0<br>Fouls: 3-6<br><br>Opta Win Probability: 0.3%-97.5%. 😅<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UCL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UCL</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SLBLIV?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SLBLIV</a>

Heading into the second half, the dilemma for Benfica manager Nelson Verissimo was whether he would instruct his players to attack more in order to cut into the deficit or sit back and limit further damage.

The Eagles had their moments in the opening 45 minutes to provide some belief they might be able to strike on the counter. 

Andy Kelly @AndyK_LivNews

Benfica have definitely looked a threat going forward but you'd be hopeful the Reds have another in them here at the very least as well.

Benfica won't have counted on getting a helping hand from Konate. The French defender watched Rafa Silva's cross slip between his legs and to the feet of Darwin Nunez. Nunez waited a moment before slotting a shot into the far post.

CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ @CBSSportsGolazo

DARWIN NUNEZ. 💥<br><br>Ibrahima Konaté will want that one back. 😅 <a href="https://t.co/IBqunw96GG">pic.twitter.com/IBqunw96GG</a>

That brought Estadio da Luz to life and turned the match on its head. Everton forced Alisson Becker to make a save in the 60th minute, and Fabinho quickly had to clear the danger.

Liverpool supporters might have had their hearts in their mouths inside the final 10 minutes as they watched Alisson perform a Cruyff turn from well outside of the 18-yard box to throw off an onrushing Silva.

When it looked like Klopp's side was only going to take a one-goal advantage into the second leg, Naby Keita threaded a through ball ahead to Diaz. The Colombian attacker rounded Vlachodimos for a simple finish.

The elimination of the away goals rule provides Benfica with a little more hope to turn things around in the return fixture. Still, overturning a two-goal difference away from home will be no easy feat.

What's Next?

The second leg is scheduled for April 13 at Anfield. Before that, Liverpool has a massive fixture with Manchester City on Sunday that could see the Reds overtake the reigning champions in the Premier League table.