Liverpool broke a run of three straight defeats and put one foot in the last eight of the Champions League with a 2-0 victory over RB Leipzig.
In the first leg of a last-16 tie taking place in Budapest due to German authorities not allowing any foreign teams to enter the country, Liverpool hit their opponents with a quickfire double after half-time with Mohamed Salah (53) and Sadio Mane (58) punishing some inexplicable defending from the Bundesliga side.
It looked to be a tricky encounter for Jurgen Klopp’s men against a Leipzig side that had already beaten both PSG and Manchester United on their way to the knockout stages, but they met a Liverpool side full of energy in midfield and ruthlessness in attack.
Leipzig will travel to Anfield for the second leg on Wednesday, March 10.
From that moment, Liverpool took over, pressing high and restricting Nagelsmann’s side any space in midfield with Thiago and Curtis Jones snapping into tackles all over the pitch. Trent Alexander-Arnold was back to his creative best down the right, providing a wonderful pass to Salah on 14 minutes but the finish was palmed clear by Peter Gulacsi.
Mane headed over from eight yards when well found by Roberto Firmino on 24 minutes before Andrew Robertson came within inches of scoring a spectacular lob from 40 yards after Gulasci’s clearance dropped to the Scotsman. Firmino had the ball in the net minutes later when heading home from a Mane poked cross from the by-line but the ball had just crossed the line and was spotted by the assistant referee.
Like the first half, Leipzig started with great intent early in the second half with Christopher Nkunku racing through on goal, but Alisson made a big block to keep the scores level.
Liverpool then hit Leipzig with a quickfire double to turn the tie firmly in their favour.
Marcel Sabitzer – usually so reliable with the ball – played a lacklustre ball back to Lukas Klostermann which turned into a perfect through ball to Salah, who was alive to the danger. He galloped through on goal and finished in his usual clinical nature, taking his tally for the season to 25 goals in all competitions.
Leipzig then crumbled defensively in similar fashion to the way Liverpool did at Leicester on Saturday. Nordi Mukiele had looked in panicky mood all night up against Mane and misjudged a long ball forward which allowed the Liverpool winger to race through on goal, just like Salah a few minutes earlier. The result was almost identical as he stayed cool and made it 2-0 with a neat finish.
Nagelsmann’s side knew they needed a goal to give them some hope in the return leg but only a couple of long-range efforts from Angelino and Sabitzer really threatened Alisson’s goal, although Hwang Hee-Chan clipped an effort inches wide in stoppage time.
This was a much needed clean sheet for Alisson and his defence – Liverpool’s first in eight matches – and an equally vital result for Klopp, whose side showed that a second Champions League title under his watch remains a possibility.