A victory for Liverpool had started to feel unfamiliar and threatened to become a distant memory, but they crowned an accomplished Champions League away performance with goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to illuminate their path forward and foil RB Leipzig.
Having felt like everything was conspiring against them in recent weeks with the injuries racking up and positive displays being undone by individual blunders, Jurgen Klopp’s charges welcomed the change of profiting from the opposition’s defensive failings.
Julian Nagelsmann’s Leipzig have been kryptonite for English teams on this stage as Tottenham and Manchester United will attest, but the Bundesliga side were outmanoeuvred at the Puskas Arena in Bulgaria.
The German, the manager all of Europe’s elite clubs have earmarked as a successor for their incumbents, had warned that Liverpool would be “an injured boxer” that will “enter the game with everything that they have and try to leave their recent results in the league behind.” His analysis was accurate, but despite being heedful, Leipzig were humbled in and out of possession.
There was a scare for the Merseysiders in the opening minutes when the dynamic Angelino served up a cross from the byline that Dani Olmo dived to meet. The ball ricocheted off the inside of the upright and out offering relief for Liverpool, who went on to dominant every element of the half.
Leipzig were pressing relentlessly, with Klopp’s men happy to bypass it and receiving much joy getting in behind.
Salah should have supplied Mane, then failed to play the ball in front of Roberto Firmino on another occasion, before drawing a sharp save from Peter Gulacsi. Liverpool’s No9 found the side-netting when he could’ve slipped in Mane and Leipzig were being overawed by a wave of attacks.
The flow didn’t stem. Gulacsi paced out of his box to stop the Senegal forward running through from a rapid break, but the back-peddling goalkeeper’s clearance was picked up by Andy Robertson. The left-back floated the ball over him, but it hit the top netting.
Liverpool made a habit of forcing errors from Leipzig and one from Dayot Upamecano ended with a Mane effort being blocked by Mukiele, but the attacker persisted and hooked the ball back from the byline for Firmino to head it. The goal was disallowed, with the linesman ruling it had gone out of play.
For all their chances and control of the encounter, Liverpool must have feared that fortune wouldn’t be theirs again. They had been the better side against Manchester City and Leicester before capitulating and Leipzig seemed to be following the template of building the visitors’ confidence only to crush it.
However, Liverpool reversed the trend, and in the space of five second half minutes, put this leg beyond Leipzig.
Marcel Sabitzer had aimed a backpass to one of his centre-backs, but Lukas Klostermann slipped and it invited Salah to dart in behind and cooly beat Gulacsi.
Leipzig hadn’t got that howler out of their system when Mukiele misjudged a long ball from Curtis Jones with Mane making sure it was punished.
Nagelsmann’s men pushed to find a route back into the encounter, but Liverpool were equal to every attempt.
An evening of quality was capped off with a flood of character from England’s champions.