Man City And Liverpool Earn Valuable First Leg Leads In The Champions League

City had to dig deep to beat a rock solid Atletico Madrid, while Liverpool comfortably beat Benfica
22:20, 05 Apr 2022

Liverpool have one foot in the door of the Champions League semi-finals after beating Benfica 3-1, emboldening their quadruple hopes, while Manchester City broke down a tough Atletico Madrid to take a valuable 1-0 lead into the second leg. 

In the battle between the Premier League’s defending champions and La Liga’s defending champions, Man City were made to labour against a typically imperious Atletico defence, but they finally found the key to unlock it thanks to some superb work between Kevin De Bruyne and super-sub Phil Foden.  

Pep Guardiola’s side had to work from the opening whistle at the Etihad, with Diego Simeone’s Colchoneros dropping deep immediately, happy to soak up any pressure from the home side. Despite dominating with the ball throughout the first 45 minutes, Man City didn’t have a single shot on target, while Atletico, who also failed to muster a shot, on target or otherwise, have now stopped the opposition from scoring a first-half goal in seven of their ten Champions League games this season. 

The first meeting between these sides in European competition finally saw a breakthrough in the second half. City’s patience paid off thanks to the instant impact of substitute Foden. The 21-year-old, crowded by Atletico players, found a way to expertly slot the ball into Kevin De Bruyne, making his 50th Champions League appearance for City, for a superb finish under the legs of Jan Oblak. 

Foden was nearly instrumental in a second, weaving into the Atletico area to lay-off Bernardo Silva who in turn set-up De Bruyne, but the Belgian’s effort was stopped on the line by a last-ditch effort from Stefan Savic. 

Liverpool, meanwhile, made lighter work of Benfica and take a comfortable lead back to Anfield next Wednesday. 

The Reds capitalised on some poor marking to take the lead in the 17th minute through Ibrahima Konate. Latching onto a corner into the centre of the box from Andy Robertson, the French defender had the freedom to power home an easy header from eight-yards out and claim his first goal in a Liverpool shirt. 

The visitors doubled their lead through Sadio Mane following an excellent counter-attack. Trent Alexander-Arnold, having picked up a loose ball after a Benfica mistake in midfield, put in a brilliant ball over the top which was headed on by Luis Diaz into Mane's path for an easy tap-in. Benfica should have been on level terms moments earlier when Nicolas Otamendi, only six yards out, put his header badly wide of the post.

After a comfortable first half for Jurgen Klopp’s men, they were given a scare soon after the break when the home side pulled one back thanks to some comical defending. Rafa Silva’s cross into the box looked to be going straight to the feet of Konate, but it drifted through the opening goalscorer’s legs and Darwin Nunez was there to duly put home. 

However, Liverpool restored their two-goal lead and wrapped up the win in the 87th through Luis Diaz. The Colombian was threaded in by Naby Keita with the help of a deflection and the ex-Porto man was there to roll it home, having beaten Benfica keeper Odysseas Vlachodimos to the ball. 

Next up for Liverpool and Manchester City is the small matter of this weekend’s Premier League title crunch match between the two at the Etihad. Roll on, Sunday! 

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