Liverpool

Liverpool

Premier League • England

Player ratings: Trio of Liverpool stars deliver as Reds put one foot in Champions League semi-finals

Ibrahima Konate celebrates goal Benfica v Liverpool

Liverpool have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals after beating Benfica 3-1 in the first leg of their quarter-final tie in Portugal.

The Reds were outstanding in the first half but struggled in the second. However, their overall performance was rewarded thanks to goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz.

The visitors created a couple of early chances and it took them just 17 minutes to make the breakthrough.

Luis Diaz, a former Porto winger, won a corner which Andy Robertson swung to the far post where Konate easily outjumped Benfica winger Everton to beat the goalkeeper with a downward header.

It was the centre-back’s first goal for the club since joining from RB Leipzig in the summer.

Liverpool continued to pass up good opportunities but when the second goal came it was brilliantly executed.

Alexander-Arnold’s superb ball over the top picked out Diaz who headed down for Mane to tap home.

Konate error gives Benfica hope

Liverpool were made to pay for their wasted chances just four minutes into the second half when an error by Konate gifted a goal to Darwin Nunez.

The centre-back got his feet in a complete tangle trying to deal with Rafa Silva’s low cross and the Benfica striker took a touch before firing home from close range.

But just when it looked like frustration would get the better Liverpool, Keita’s perfect through-ball allowed Luis Diaz to round the goalkeeper and slot home an angled shot.

Liverpool (4-3-3)

Alisson: Made a couple of routine saves in a quiet first half. Could do nothing about Nunez’s strike after being let down by Konate. 6

Trent Alexander-Arnold: Brilliant pass found Diaz to tee-up Mane’s second for the Reds. Almost repeated the trick when he found Salah just before the break but the Reds star’s effort was saved. More defensive in the second period as Benfica showed more of a threat. 8

Ibrahima Konate: Grabbed his first goal for the club with a fine downward header to give Liverpool the lead. Had a great first-half but howler gifted Benfica a goal back. 6

Virgil van Dijk: Had his hands full, mainly in the second half, as Darwin Nunez started to show his qualities. Kept his composure though to guide the Reds to victory. 7

Andrew Robertson: Was a constant threat when he joined the attack in the opening period. But it was a different story in the second as was forced to play it safer. 7

Game of two halves for Liverpool

Naby Keita: Started the game really brightly, getting in the box at every opportunity. But he struggled as Benfica had more success in the second half. 7

Fabinho: Dominated from his base in front of the back four and was the best of Liverpool’s starting midfield three on the night. Took a late blow to the head but was able to carry on. 8

Thiago: Dominated in the first half but struggled on the back foot as Benfica upped the pace and the Reds got sloppy with their passing. Booked. 6

Luis Diaz: Handed the start on the left and had the bit between his teeth, being a former Porto player. Kept on as Mane and Salah were hooked and wrapped up the win late on with a fine finish. 8

Sadio Mane: Started down the middle and had the easiest of tap-ins. Was lively in the first half but struggled in the second as service dried up. Subbed. 7

Mo Salah: Missed a great chance to make it 3-0 just before the break after another brilliant Alexander-Arnold pass. Was the quietest of Liverpool’s from three and was subbed on the hour mark. 6

Substitutes:

Jordan Henderson (on for Thiago, 61): Got in some decent crossing positions but his delivery left a lot to de desired. 5

Diogo Jota (on for Salah, 61): Missed a great chance to make it four in stoppage-time when he should have scored. 5

Roberto Firmino (on for Mane, 61): Good movement when he came on and clearly looked more comfortable in the central role than Mane. 6

James Milner (on for Keita, 89): N/A

Joe Gomez (on for Alexander-Arnold, 89): N/A