In recent weeks it has been mistakes made by the Premier League champions that have led to their own downfall. In Budapest against RB Leipzig, however, the roles would be reversed – as Liverpool took advantage of loose passes on the part of their opposition along with slick play to take the lead in their round of 16 Champions League tie.
The team put out in Hungary was not too dissimilar to the one that started the defeat against Leicester City. With James Milner appearing to be out with a hamstring injury picked up in the loss to the Foxes, Thiago started this European game.
The result did not come without some scares as early on it was Leipzig who raced into the Liverpool half with Angelino on the left flank crossing into the box for Olmo to head on goal, his shot crashing low onto the post, but with Alisson close to the shot should the angle have been closer to the target.
From then on in the first half, it was mostly Liverpool as in the 14th minute a launched ball from Henderson wide to Alexander-Arnold met its intended target and from him came a lofted through ball into Salah one-on-one against Gulacsi lacking everything but the finish as the Egyptians effort collided with the shoulder of the Leipzig keeper.
Possession stayed largely with the Reds and a scare for the “home side” came in the 31st minute after Mané was set off on a run and came close to being in control against the keeper but with Gulacsi coming to clear it had appeared as if the chance had ended.
That was until the Hungarian cleared only as far to Andrew Robertson who attempted the speculative effort from around 35 yards out and with the keeper racing back to his own net the ball only could hit the outside roof of the net with Gulacsi falling into his own goal and getting tangled in the said net.
Liverpool would have the ball in the back of the net in the first half as only a few minutes later Bayern Munich’s signing for the summer Upamecano passed straight into the path of Roberto Firmino who set up Mané in the box whose shot was deflected and fell for the Senegal striker for a tame second effort.
Upamecano thought he’d shepherded the ball out for the goal kick, but Mané played on, kicking the ball into the six-yard-box for Firmino to head into the back of the net.
The linesman flagged for the ball was out of play and the VAR officials agreed with the ball being only millimetres over the byline.
With the Redmen on top in the first half and with little for Leipzig to shout about, promising signs for the “visitors” going into the break.
Half time: RB Leipzig 0-0 Liverpool
Leipzig would start the second half much how they started the first, with another big chance. Olmo the provider this time setting off Nkunku who had beaten the offside line and with only Alisson to beat who had come off his line to meet the shot it was the goalie who came out on top – a huge boost in confidence, no doubt, for the man under fire in the last couple of games for his blunders.
The mistake maker for the opener came in the form of Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer whose misguided pass to Klostermann set off Mohammed Salah on goal and this time in a one-on-one it was the forward who came out on top, firing low into the bottom right of the net to put Liverpool ahead in the tie with an important away goal.
From one error to another as just 5 minutes later Mukiele attempted to control an inciteful punt forward from Curtis Jones but missed the first touch and went to ground under no challenge. Mané was prowling and picked up the loose ball and was up against the keeper and with a mirror image finish of the first goal he fired the Reds ahead by two goals into the bottom left corner.
Leipzig were now chasing the game in a foreign stadium, as the “home side” against some of the best forwards in European football. With some albeit out of form, there was hope, but hope was the only thing to find in their performance in this leg of the tie – 2nd currently in Bundesliga appeared to be a mistake on this night.
Dayot Upamecano was one player who had enough of Europe looking at him after his transfer was announced for the summer and the France international appeared laboured and slow, lacking obvious match sharpness as his passes lacked accuracy and his defending low in polish.
There is no doubt that this team has quality but little of that shone through in this leg. Potentially there will be an upset in the second leg and there was almost something positive to take from this game going into that match as substitute Hwang Hee-Chan had the last chance of the game in the 92nd minute after beating the offside line and lifting the ball over the grounded Alisson but only wide.
The tie is not over but that is a much-needed victory going into Saturday’s Merseyside derby. With old scores to settle and the prospect of Champions League football for next season is in doubt, this result was needed to springboard Liverpool into one of their most important games of the season.
Full time: RB Leipzig 0-2 Liverpool
RB Leipzig: Gulácsi (6), Klostermann (5), Upamecano (4), Mukiele (4), Angeliño (5), Sabitzer (5), Haidara (5), Kampl (6), Adams (6), Olmo (5), Nkunku (6).
Subs: Poulsen (5), Orbán (5), Hwang (6).
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (8), Robertson (7), Kabak (8), Henderson (7), Jones (8), Thiago (7), Wijnaldum (5), Mané (8), Salah (8), Firmino (7).
Subs: Shaqiri (6), Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Williams (n/a)
Man of the match: Mohammed Salah