News Matches

Saved by Sanchez: Sluggish Liverpool make it through but must improve to win Champions League

5:25 PM EST 3/8/22
Mohamed Salah Alexis Sanchez Liverpool Inter GFX
The Reds were beaten at home by Inter, but held on to seal a 2-1 aggregate victory against 10 men following the ex-Arsenal star's red card at Anfield

Match statistics: Liverpool 0-1 Inter

Alexis Sanchez could barely look. He knew.

He had just done the one thing Inter needed him not to do, and as the Chile international departed down the Anfield tunnel, sent off for a second bookable offence, with him went his side’s chances of a dramatic Champions League comeback.

And so it is Liverpool who head to the quarter-finals, although their passage was a lot less straightforward than most had expected following their first-leg win in Italy three weeks ago.

They wobbled at times here, certainly when Lautaro Martinez gave Inter the lead just after the hour mark. It was some goal from the Argentina striker, and at that point Simone Inzaghi’s side needed just one more to force an unlikely period of extra time.

Within 90 seconds, though, their hopes had been squashed.

Sanchez had been fortunate to escape a red card in the first half when standing on the calf of Thiago Alcantara, but his luck would run out here as, after a heavy touch, the former Arsenal and Manchester United forward followed through on Fabinho.

Referee Mateu Lahoz got plenty wrong on the night, for both sides, but he was right to brandish a second yellow.

Inter lost a member of their coaching staff in the melee which followed, while Sanchez took an age to leave the field.

Yep, he knew alright.

With 10 men, Inter’s threat waned and Liverpool, a touch nervously, were able to see out the remainder of the game.

Indeed, had Mohamed Salah’s luck been in, or had Arturo Vidal not made a miraculous goal-saving challenge on Luis Diaz, the Reds would have made themselves comfortable.

As it is, they suffered only their third defeat of the campaign, undone by an Inter side that played with confidence, belief and no little quality. Inzaghi felt hard done by after the first leg, and he was left counting the cost of that 2-0 defeat at the final whistle here.

Liverpool had chances of their own, mind. They hit the woodwork three times, twice through Salah and once through Joel Matip, and for all Inter’s energy and enterprise, it is worth pointing out that they managed only six shots, and that their goal was a once-in-a-lifetime hit from Lautaro.

Still, Jurgen Klopp will know his side can play better, much better. They started both halves sloppily, and were most definitely ruffled by the aggression and intensity of Inter’s pressing at times. Sanchez, until his dismissal, and Vidal were the chief menaces.

Klopp had opted to spring a couple of surprises with his team, bringing Thiago straight back in after the hamstring injury which had kept him out of the last three games, and handing Curtis Jones a start too. Matip came back into defence and Diogo Jota returned up front, with Ibrahima Konatae missing and Diaz benched.

Liverpool, knowing they could afford to lose and still progress, were not themselves. They did not pass the ball crisply and were caught out in the centre of the field too often.

Fabinho struggled, and none of their forward players, Jota, Salah and Sadio Mane, carried the threat we are used to.

Inter pushed, delighting their fans packed into the Anfield Road end, and when Lautaro struck they had a chance.

Sanchez, though, had other ideas. Glory in defeat for the Serie A champions, while Liverpool can get ready for the last eight, knowing they will need to do a bit better than this when they get there.