It was a night when Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool could savour the release of Champions League football. With their confidence at a low ebb after a grisly run on the domestic front – the form guide showed just three wins for them in 12 matches – they had travelled for the away leg of this last-16 tie under intense pressure. With their Premier League title defence having crumbled, this competition has come to feel like their last shot at glory. How they thrived on the stakes.
It was a performance more in keeping with the ones that had made them such feared opposition prior to their shock downturn; the hustle was there and so was the focus and precision. As importantly, the errors that have undermined them of late were not. Those would belong to RB Leipzig.
There was a big moment at the start of the second half when Alisson, who had suffered more than any Liverpool player in the previous two games – the league defeats against Manchester City and Leicester – raced off his line to thwart Christopher Nkunku in a one-on-one. It has been Alisson’s kicking that has drawn the unwanted attention and he was a little erratic in that department at Budapest’s Puskas Arena, where the tie had to be played because of coronavirus restrictions. Asked to keep the ball out of his net, he stood tall.
It would prove to be a turning point because, within 10 minutes or so, Liverpool had struck twice. Leipzig sit second in the Bundesliga, where they have emerged as the most credible challengers to Bayern Munich and they have built their game on firm defensive foundations. Yet they never looked secure with their high line and desire to take risks and, when they sprinkled in a pair of terrible mistakes, the tie moved away from them. Continue reading