The 100 seconds that saved Liverpool’s Champions League hopes
Even the Champions League holder needed needed a draw Red Bull Salzburg to ensure its position in the last 16, but until second-half goals from Naby Keita and Mo Salah eventually secured a 2-0 triumph Tuesday, there was a palpable feel that Liverpool was living just a bit too close to the border for its own liking.
Nerves frayed as Salah missed chance. As a defense that has fought to keep clean sheets this year was frequently pierced by Salzburg they frayed even more.
Seven years after Chelsea had failed to reach the final 16 could Salzburg condemn Liverpool into a similar fate and pull off one of the great shocks that are European?
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This season, the team has proved one of the surprise packages of the Champions League below its director Jesse Marsch.
When the two teams met at Anfield at Group E, Marsch’s half-time team speak urging his players to show more fight against Liverpool went viral as the American switched between English and German, peppering his speech using a fusillade of expletives at a performance which was like a one-man theatre show.
Given what was at stake for Salzburg — a place in the knockout stages of Europe’s most prestigious contest in addition to millions of extra dollars for doing this — the Ukrainian team got off to a blistering start as Erling Braut H??land, Hwang Hee-chan and Takumi Minamino unsettled Jurgen Klopp’s team.
As Salzburg threatened to take the lead on several occasions in these opening exchanges, Virgil van Dijk was abandoned bawling in his fellow defenders.
If there was anxiety from the Liverpool back line, an element of calm power was provided by its goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
In last year’s group stage game that is closing, Alisson had to make an incredible last-gasp save to make sure on Tuesday the Brazilian goalkeeper produced several interventions that are key and Liverpool edged Napoli to reach the final 16 to help keep the score goalless.
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Ahead of this Group E experience, H??land, whose goalscoring was key to Salzburg’s impressive Champions League campaign — its first since 1994 had been surrounded by a lot of the commentary.
For the home team, the Norwegian fought to replicate eight goals in five games to the feats which had brought him.
Just before Liverpool took the lead, H??land failed have a glimpse at goal, but his touch deserted him as he fired the ball.
Liverpool took the lead with Trent Alexander Arnold switching the drama — a target that bore the hallmarks of many of their goals this year and the fast Sadio Mane moving to make havoc.
Persuading Salzburg keeper his goal to be rashly left by Cican Stankovic after Robertson traded passes with Mane into the playground. And when Mane spanned for Keita was head home into the empty net.
The two Keita and Mane had played for Salzburg and their blend for that opening goal sucked the air out of their Red Bull Arena — apart from the end.
Seconds Salah and actually burst Salzburg’s balloon.
The pass of jordan Henderson sent Salah clear as Stankovic ran from his playground, the Egyptian international pushed the ball beyond the Salzburg keeper, but in doing this the angle into the opposition’s goal narrowed. Somehow, his landscapes were recalibrated by Salah and directed his shot to the net.
Following the match Robertson called the goal”ridiculous” while Liverpool midfielder James Milner quipped at a tweet:”#MolovesPythagorastheorem.”
Having overlooked a whole slew of chances previously the capacity to stay unflustered at a moment of Salah impressed Klopp.
“After we had the ball we had sitters and did not score,” that the Liverpool supervisor told BT Sport. “Then Mo scored the hardest situation of the entire night — he scored that goal.
“I don’t have any idea [how]. Together with his caliber, the way he didn’t score one or two of those others I have no clue”
Days after Anthony Joshua regained his world Marsch before the team floored with just two rapid punches — compared the slugfest from Salzburg of Tuesday into a boxing bout, belts.
“We said we would want our very best performance to win this game and we gave it till the first goal,” Marsch informed UEFA’s Champions League site.
“I think things could have been different if we had scored . However, in Salah they showed their quality the next target in the long run. It was just like a heavyweight fight; we hit uswe hit on them and then they hit us for the match.”
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Liverpool’s win guaranteed Klopp’s team finished top of Group E, one point before Napoli, which beat team Genk 4-0.
“They started so direct,” Klopp advised BT Sport. “They did a lot of smart things. We were prepared to defend it. It was a very tense game.
“In the second half they couldn’t deal with the intensity. We scored two goals that were excellent. We might have scored seven or six which is crazy. We won the team, we won the game, all great.”
The draw for the last 16 will be drawn up on Monday.
“We are through to the final 16,” Robertson informed UEFA’s Champions League website. “We know what we can get there, we have proved it at the last few years. It’s up to us to prove it again.”