Liverpool confirmed their progression to the UEFA Champions League (UCL) semi-finals for the first time since they won the competition in 2018/19, with two Roberto Firmino goals helping stave off a late fightback from plucky Benfica.
As Chelsea showed before eventually succumbing to Real Madrid, a two-goal deficit in a UEFA Champions League quarter final isn’t impossible to turn around, as both sides went in search of a crucial first goal.
Éverton showcased his danger on the counter, flashing a shot wide of the left post from distance after ten minutes, though in truth Liverpool never looked in doubt of extending their aggregate lead.
They did just that after 21 minutes, with Ibrahima Konaté jumping highest from a corner to guide a carbon copy of his headed first ‘Reds’ goal in the first leg past Odysseas Vlachodimos.
Roberto Firmino should have made it 2-0 on the night, however his headed effort was deflected over by an unaware Jan Vertonghen putting his body in the right place at the right time.
It proved costly as 20-year-old Gonçalo Ramos pulled one back for Benfica a minute later, surviving a VAR check for offside. The ‘Eagles’ forward was less than a year old when Liverpool last let a quarter final first leg lead slip in European competition in April 2002, and despite conceding, the hosts kept their heads up and coasted into HT.
Shortly after the break, a catalogue of defensive errors allowed Diogo Jota to cross for Firmino, who restored his side’s lead with a tap in.
Jürgen Klopp then rolled out the changes as the hosts cranked it up another notch. Firmino bagged his second of the night, volleying home, and took his UCL tally to five goals in six matches this campaign.
That was seemingly tie done and dusted, though Roman Yaremchuck and Darwin Núñez nicked a goal each – the latter bizarrely surviving an offside VAR check – to go 3-3 on the night with ten minutes to spare.
However the damage had already been done by Liverpool, who ultimately sealed progression with relative ease.
The victory sets up a meeting with Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the last four, in a repeat of their UEFA Europa League semi-final from 2015/16.
The Spanish side will be eyeing up another famous scalp after knocking out Bayern Munich and Juventus already in 2021/22.