Liverpool returned to winning ways as they secured a valuable 2-0 win over RB Leipzig in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 game in Budapest.
Jurgen Klopp’s side came into the game in relatively poor form, losing three successive games to leave them sixth in the Premier League.
However, at a neutral venue in the Hungarian capital, the Reds were the better side in the opening 45 minutes, former Liverpool goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi making a save to deny Mohamed Salah, while Sadio Mane headed over following a Roberto Firmino cross.
Andy Robertson also came agonisingly close with an audacious effort from distance, the full-back picking the ball up from a clearance from Gulacsi before the Scotland international sent the Hungarian ‘keeper scrambling back towards his line, only for his effort to hit the top netting.
After the restart, it looked as though Leipzig would be much improved, Christopher Nkunku getting in behind makeshift centre-back Jordan Henderson within a matter of seconds, the 23-year-old forcing a save out of Alisson.
Liverpool would, however, take the lead in the 53rd minute, as Salah pounced on a slack ball from Marcel Sabitzer in the Leipzig midfield, racing through on goal, before coolly slotting past the RB Leipzig stopper.
18 – Since Jürgen Klopp took charge of his first UEFA Champions League match at Liverpool in September 2017, the Reds have registered more clean sheets in the competition than any other side (18). Resilient. pic.twitter.com/5aPpUpEvtv
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 16, 2021
Five minutes later and it was two, and once again, Leipzig were the masters of their own downfall. Nordi Mukiele made an absolute mess of his attempt to clear a long ball, the French defender ending up on his back to allow Mane a clear run on goal before the Senegalese finished confidently.
Liverpool looked dangerous on the counter, while Leipzig looked distinctly off colour, and speaking afterwards, Jurgen Klopp was delighted with his side’s ‘exceptional’ control.
“It was the game we wanted, the game we needed,” Klopp told BT Sport. “Leipzig can be a real monster, they overrun teams, they are really physical and tonight we controlled them in an exceptional way. We played a really good game and we got the result we deserved.
“We defended really well and had good recovery. It was a tough game with only two days since the last one. It’s only the first leg, we know that but a lot of people were waiting for us to slip again.
“For two years we were really good and this year we have problems, that’s fine. A lot of people expected us to slip again but the boys didn’t.”
Next up for Liverpool is a Merseyside Derby against Everton on Saturday, both sides potentially vying for a place in the top four.