Liverpool will line up in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the third time in five seasons after Roberto Firmino’s second-half double all but wrapped up an aggregate triumph before Benfica hit back to remove some of the gloss. Next up: Villarreal.
twenty-one’ Konaté heads in his second of the tie
32′ Gonçalo Ramos gives Benfica hope
55′ Firmino restores Liverpool cushion
65′ Brazilian with another far-post tap-in
73′ Benfica sub Yaremchuk pulls one back
82′ Darwin coolly makes it 3-3 on night
83′ Alisson’s fine stop denies Darwin
Match in brief: Reds hold off late charge
A much-changed Liverpool side were slow to get into this quarter-final second leg, but looked almost home and dry when Ibrahima Konaté headed in his second goal of the tie midway through the first half.
The Reds sought to make sure, with Benfica struggling to contain them at times, but the visitors weathered the storm and hit back when Gonçalo Ramos made the most of a fortuitous ricochet.
Liverpool regained control, even if nerves still jangled faintly until Firmino twice tapped in at the far post in the space of 11 second-half minutes. The Reds led 6-2 on aggregate – surely they were done now?
Still, Benfica delighted the traveling fans by staging a fine recovery to draw on the night, Roman Yaremchuk and Darwin Núñez pulling it back to 6-4 before it took a fantastic save from Alisson Becker to deny Darwin another. Liverpool had already done the hard work, though.
PlayStation® Player of the Match: Kostas Tsimikas (Liverpool)
“The defender had a great game. Defensively he had no problems and he made a fantastic contribution to the Liverpool attack, capping it all with a terrific assist for the home side’s third.”
UEFA Technical Observer panel
As it happened: Liverpool 3-3 Benfica
Matt HowarthLiverpool Reporter
There were one or two nervous murmurs spreading among the home supporters at various stages of the second half – with the score at 1-1 and again at 3-3 – but Benfica, despite giving an excellent account of themselves, had too big a mountain to climb. The Reds confirmed their last-four spot with relative ease on a night when Jürgen Klopp was able to rest several first-team regulars.
Carlos Machado, Benfica reporter
Benfica were much more competitive against an admittedly weakened Liverpool line-up, giving the home side a few things to think about, but ultimately the English side were just a class above. A couple of the goals the Eagles conceded were self-inflicted, but still they battled back to make it 3-3 and it took a tremendous save from Alisson Becker to deny them a fourth.
Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager: “The day we qualify for the Champions League semi-final and I’m not happy, please come and knock me out. It was not exactly what we wanted but it is absolutely not important. We are through and that’s all that matters. “
Jordan HendersonLiverpool captain: “We started well, and could have scored more in the first half. We’re disappointed with the goals we conceded. We knew it would be tough. We’re through which is the most important thing.”
Diogo Jota, Liverpool forward: “They scored a goal almost out of nothing but at one point we were 6-2 up and maybe we started to relax when we shouldn’t. We’re through and that’s the most important thing.”
Darwin Nunez, Benfica forward: “Benfica proved that we are great; we left everything out on the pitch. We’re going home with our heads held high. We lost it at home.”
Gonçalo Ramos, Benfica forward: “It’s fantastic for me to score in the Champions League, but nobody is happy as we’re out. We must reflect on the positives of the campaign as a whole. Ultimately, we were knocked out by a great side.”
- Liverpool are through to the European Cup semi-finals for the 12th time; the Reds have won nine of their previous 11 last-four ties.
- Roberto Firmino took his tally to 20 Champions League goals, the fourth Liverpool player to reach that landmark following Mohamed Salah (33), Sadio Mané (22) and Steven Gerrard (21).
- Darwin Núñez bows out with six Champions League goals this campaign, surpassing Nuno Gomes’s Benfica record of five set in 1998/99.
- At the age of 20 years 297 days, Gonçalo Ramos is the second youngest player to score in the Champions League knockout phase for Benfica after Nélson Oliveira (20y 211d vs Zenit in 2012).
- Joël Matip made his 50th Champions League appearance. Only five of the current squad have managed more games in the competition: Thiago Alcántara (72 apps), Salah (68), James Milner (64), Fabinho (61) and Mané (52).
fantasy star performers
Costas Tsimikas – 13
Roberto Firmino – 10
Ibrahima Konate – 8
Gonçalo Ramos – 8
Liverpool: Allison; Gomez, Matip, Konaté, Tsimikas; Keïta, Milner (Thiago Alcántara 57), Henderson (Fabinho 57); Luis Diaz (Mané 66), Firmino (Origi 90+1), Diogo Jota (Salah 57)
benfica: Vlachodimos; Gilberto (Gil Dias 90+1), Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Weigl, Taarabt (João Mário 66); Everton (André Almeida 90+1), Gonçalo Ramos, Diogo Gonçalves (Yaremchuk 46); Darwin Nunez
Liverpool will face Villarreal in the semi-finals. The first leg takes place at Anfield on 27 April, with the second leg in Spain on 3 May.