Liverpool progressed to the quarter finals of the Champions League last night with a comfortable 2-0 win over RB Leipzig in Budapest.
A quick-fire double in the second half from Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane settled the tie as Liverpool romped home 4-0 on aggregate.
It was a much needed win for Liverpool as they rediscovered their top form in a game where Nathaniel Phillips, Thiago and Fabinho all turned in brilliant performances.
Liverpool join Dortmund, PSG and Porto in the hat for the quarter final draw which takes place on Friday the 19th March.
Salah tightens Liverpool's grip on this tie! 🔴
A great team move involving the Red's front three 👏
3-0 on aggregate! pic.twitter.com/fSzrAJsjAt
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 10, 2021
Liverpool made five changes from Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Fulham, bringing back into the side Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago, Ozan Kabak, Fabinho and Mane.
The German side made two changes from their 3-0 win over Freiburg at the weekend, bringing in Emil Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer.
Liverpool fans were overjoyed to see the effect that Fabinho had to the team back in his best position as a defensive midfielder.
This had two real positive impacts on the team. One being that the defence was better protected and the second being that Thiago was gifted the freedom seen in his incredibly successful time at Bayern Munich.
The Spaniard flourished in a more free midfield role and his passing range, dribbling and controlling of possession was a welcome sight for Liverpool fans.
With Fabinho back in midfield, Liverpool looked instantly more balanced and showed shades of what we’ve seen over recent years.
Liverpool stat leaders vs RB Leipzig in the #UCL
✰ Most tackles made: Thiago
✰ Most duels won: Thiago
✰ Most recoveries: Fabinho
✰ Most interceptions: Fabinho
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 10, 2021
With two German managers, who both had to distance themselves from the German national head coach role in the build up to this game, the tactical battle was one that was always going to be an intriguing battle.
High pressing and intensity from both sides was there to see early on. However, with Liverpool protecting a 2-0 lead from the first leg, they were happy to find their chances on the counter as Leipzig struggled for clear cut opportunities.
In the first half the German side failed to create anything too clear cut with the best chance falling to Emil Forsberg, who fired wide on his weaker foot from inside the box.
Without their attacking wingback Angelino, Christopher Nkunku filled in and struggled in a deeper, wider position as they lacked any real attacking penetration.
Leipzig appeared hesitant to exploit the space in behind Liverpool as many of their domestic opponents have done in recent weeks.
Julian Naglesmann attempted to rectify this in the second half, bringing on the more pacey, creative players in Hwang Hee-Chan and Justin Kluivert.
It was another substitute who went closest for them, with Alexander Sørloth heading against the bar from a deep cross from Hee-Chan in the 65th minute.
That was the best chance they created, as they struggled to really pierce this Liverpool backline which saw an inspired, aggressive performance from Phillips and Kabak.
23-year-old Phillips will earn the plaudits, and rightly so, as his no nonsense performance restricted any opportunities for the German side in his best performance in a Liverpool shirt so far.
Nat Phillips’ game by numbers vs. RB Leipzig:
9 ball recoveries
5 duels won
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 10, 2021
Deadly Duo Strike Again
Shortly after Leipzig’s best chances, Liverpool’s deadly duo of Salah and Mane killed the game and the tie with two well worked goals.
The first from Salah saw a quick, incisive pass from Mane to set Diogo Jota through, who played it onto Salah to the right of the box. The Egyptian cut in and finished in typical fashion to notch his 25th goal of the season for the Reds.
Four minutes later, a flash cross from substitute Divock Origi travelled all the way to the back post for Mane to tap in for his third Champions League goal of the season.
Two quick-fire goals in both of the ties from those two were fundamental to Liverpool’s success in what were two relatively tight games.
It offers hope going forward that this side can cause problems for anyone and they will be aided by returning players as the competitions runs on.
12/13 – In all European competitions under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool have now progressed from 12 of their 13 two-legged knockout ties (including qualifiers), only failing in last season’s last 16 against Atlético de Madrid. Smiles. pic.twitter.com/CfFFlMaS2O
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 10, 2021
Klopp Delighted With Win
Speaking to BT Sport after the match, Jurgen Klopp was delighted with his side’s win and was incredibly happy, and complimentary towards Phillips who stood out on a big night in the Champions League.
“What a boy he is, what a player he is, what a night for him – absolutely great. The concentration level he shows is incredible.
He’s an aerial monster and on the floor not bad. He had the honour of playing a CL game and he won it. I am really happy for him.”
Furthermore, he was also extremely pleased with Fabinho, who anchored the midfield superbly in his return to his favoured position.
“I told him on the way downstairs, ‘you like the No. 6 position more than the other one eh?’, and he couldn’t show it more clearly!” the manager said.
“We all want Fab on the six, that’s how it is. Tonight he played there and the two centre-halves played an incredible game, to be honest.
“The whole last line played a really good game, because that’s a really tough task [against] Leipzig.”