Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were clinical when it mattered most as Liverpool returned home with a commanding two-goal advantage over RB Leipzig.
Liverpool survived an early scare when RB Leipzig rattled the post inside five minutes.
Marauding full-back Angelino found space down the left before picking out Dani Olmo in the box. The Spaniard’s header crashed off the inside of the post as Jurgen Klopp’s men narrowly avoided the worst possible start.
Liverpool then spurned a glorious opportunity to exploit their opponent’s perilously high line.
Mohamed Salah was set free with Leipzig’s entire defensive line in Liverpool’s half, but the Egyptian could not find the killer pass when ultimately forced inside.
Salah was proving the visitors’ most potent threat, and came close moments later after an incisive through ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Ex-Red Peter Gulacsi was equal to the task, however, standing tall to block Salah’s chipped effort from close range.
Liverpool had three shots in the first 20 minutes against Leipzig:
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 16, 2021
Liverpool had grasped control of the contest with Sadio Mane next in line to try his luck.
Roberto Firmino’s accurate cross found Mane at the far post, but under stern pressure from Nordi Mukiele, saw his header float harmlessly over the bar.
A goal appeared an inevitability, but few would’ve predicted a 40-yard strike from Andrew Robertson that almost came to fruition.
Gulacsi was caught off his line after rushing out of his area to sweep up a counter. Robertson latched on to the rebound and placed a long-range effort just over the bar as Gulacsi dove deep into his own net attempting to avert disaster.
Leipzig almost caught Liverpool cold straight after the break, but Alisson came to the rescue to deny Christopher Nkunku after Jordan Henderson was beaten for pace.
That miss would prove pivotal moments later when the ever-dangerous Salah capitalised on a stray pass.
The forward reacted quickest to latch on the errant pass and showed great composure to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and fire home hard and low to put his side one up.
Salah does it again for Liverpool! 🙌
24 goals for the season now 🔥🔥
The Reds needed that one! pic.twitter.com/399BON6cPa
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 16, 2021
One soon became two when Leipzig’s high defensive line was brutally exposed.
A simple long ball over the top caught out Mukiele with the flight. Mane pounced, and notched Liverpool’s second with a run and finish incredibly similar to that of Salah’s mere minutes prior.
The pair almost combined for a third, but Mane appeared to be caught unawares by the disguise on a Salah pass that would’ve handed him a one-v-one with Gulacsi.
Angelino and Marcel Sabitzer miscued strikes badly as Leipzig went in search of a reply. In truth, Liverpool appeared the likelier of the two teams to notch the game’s next goal.
Liverpool’s attentions gradually shifted to preserving what they had, however, and they successfully saw out the remainder of the game to take a 2-0 lead into the second leg at Anfield.