Red Bull gifts you wins! Leipzig hand crisis-hit Liverpool Champions League victory in Hungary

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Match statistics: RB Leipzig 0-2 Liverpool

For a team in crisis, this was just what the doctor ordered.

They may be struggling domestically, but Europe has always brought out the best in Liverpool.

And Jurgen Klopp’s side have one foot in the quarter-finals after their 2-0 first leg victory over RB Leipzig in Budapest.

Confident and clinical, the Reds thoroughly deserved their win, achieved courtesy of second-half strikes from Mo Salah and Sadio Mane at the Puskas Stadium. At the halfway stage, and with two ‘away’ goals in the bag, they are in complete control of the tie.

They have been few and far between of late, but this was a good night’s work indeed for the Premier League champions. Under pressure at home, they found the continent much more to their liking.

From pretty much the first whistle to the last, they were at it. Hungry in Hungary, you could say. They pressed and they passed, they concentrated and they worked, they were cohesive and organised, solid and dangerous. If confidence is low, then it didn’t show.

They got a bit of help from their opponents, mind.

Leipzig may be an emerging force, the second best team in the Bundesliga and semi-finalists in this competition last season, but they played with the naivety of European minnows here. Julian Nagelsmann, their manager, will have been tearing at his hair out at the carelessness on display.

Both goals were handed to Liverpool. First Marcel Sabitzer, the Leipzig captain, misplaced a pass in behind his own defence for Salah, who was onto it in a flash and finished with the minimum of fuss past Peter Gulacsi.

RB Leipzig Liverpool 02172021

Then, just five minutes later, the excellent Curtis Jones set a ball over the top which Nordi Mukiele made a pig’s ear of, allowing Mane the freedom of Budapest to run clear and slot home.

Big goals, important goals. Salah now has 24 in all competitions this season, more than he managed in the whole of the last campaign.

With 118, he moves level with the great Ian St John on the all-time Liverpool list. Only 12 men sit above the Egyptian, and in this kind of form you’d back him to pass at least three of them before the season is out. He really is a quite remarkable footballer.

Mane has found goals a little harder to come by recently. This was his 11th of the season, reward for an enterprising and persistent display, in which he tormented the hapless Mukiele throughout.

Liverpool rode their luck early on, with Dani Olmo striking the foot of Alisson Becker’s right-hand post with a header, but the ‘visitors’ were comfortably the better side thereafter, and might have led at the break had Salah, Roberto Firmino or Andy Robertson had a little more fortune or accuracy.

They bossed things in midfield, where Jones and Thiago Alcantara, in particular, enjoyed stellar games, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were much more like their old selves at full-back.

It will have pleased Klopp, too, to see his side register a first clean sheet in eight matches. Ozan Kabak looked assured on his European bow for the club, while alongside him Jordan Henderson continues to fill in admirably as centre-back.

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And when those two were breached, Alisson Becker was there to mop up. The Brazilian made a couple of kicking errors, but his handling and positioning were spot on. 

All in all, then, a solid night’s work for Klopp and his men. It’s been a testing few weeks for the men from Anfield, but on this evidence they’re far from finished.

Hey, who knows, perhaps another Champions League charge is brewing? Stranger things have happened, for sure.