Wasteful Liverpool rediscover winning form as they progress in Champions League

Hang up the bunting, fire up the open-top bus, Liverpool have won a home game.

Never mind this particular home game was in Budapest, Jurgen Klopp had been hungry for any crumb of comfort in these lean times.

The Puskas Arena is becoming a fortress. Shame the Premier League champions could not have played Burnley, Brighton and the rest there.

They will wonder how they did not have this match sewn before Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane struck in the second half but routine progression to a Champions League quarter-final is still a welcome positive for Klopp in the midst of their misery by the Mersey.

Actually, you can scratch that. They will KNOW how they did not have this match sewn up earlier – a procession of opportunities were wasted.

But at least the 2019 champions looked a real threat throughout, at least they looked like they had a midfield that looked seriously competitive.

Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were both on the scoresheet

One of the odd sub-plots in the story of Liverpool’s recent domestic demise has been the continuing contractual stand-off between the club and Gini Wijnadlum, captain here.

The Dutch midfielder has long been integral to Klopp’s methods yet there is no sign of an extension to his deal, which expires at the end of the season.

Two early passes to set up Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane respectively were evidence, as if any more was needed, of why persuading Wijnaldum to stay at Anfield should be at the top of boardroom agenda.

That Wijnaldum, not renowned for breathtaking vision, was able to find attacking gaps was a reflection of Leipzig’s defensive vulnerability.

And that was never more evident than when Jota, hardly a giant, managed to meet a corner-kick and bring a camera-friendly save from Peter Gulacsi.

The Reds are into the last eight
The Reds are into the last eight

There was also plenty of space behind a high German line, Salah scampering into the deserted acreage but failing to give Thiago’s spectacular pass the finish it deserved.

Quite how Julian Nagelsmann’s team lie within one win of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga is difficult to fathom.

Leipzig were not without threat – Emil Forsberg dragged a decent first half chance wide – but Liverpool threatened to test Gulacsi pretty much every time they ventured into the final third.

With Dayot Upamecano continuing to ridicule his own reputation, Jota should have provided Liverpool with a half-time lead but mistook the side-netting for the target.

The German side failed to offer any attacking threat

There was always a chance the English team’s wastefulness would be punished but Alexander Sorloth’s looping, bar-hitting header was about as close as a pedestrian Leipzig got to upsetting Alisson.

And the win their play deserved arrived when Salah applied a trademark finish after good work from Jota and Mane gleefully accepted a Divock Origi invitation on the half-volley.
It might not have been in Liverpool but Klopp’s smile was as wide as the Mersey.
No wonder.

And no wonder he enveloped Wijnaldum in one of his throwback bear hugs when he substituted his skipper.

Make no mistake, after recent travails, this was a blessed relief for Klopp and his team. This was a blessed relief for a team that has been so badly shorn of confidence.

It turns out that no place like home can, in fact, be a place just like home.

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