A well-balanced Champions League last-16 first-leg clash looked destined to finish scoreless until the Reds superior strength in depth showed
Inter 0-2 Liverpool: Match Statistics
At the final whistle, Simone Inzaghi looked like a man who’d just had his lunch money stolen.
Liverpool have one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals, while Inter find themselves halfway out the door.
And it all seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.
For five-sixths of this last-16, first-leg clash, a cigarette paper wouldn’t have separated the two teams.
Inter pushed and Liverpool rocked, and had you been betting on a goal, you’d probably have gone for the Italians, in all honesty.
You’d have been wrong, though. In a remarkable last 15 minutes, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah found the net to put the Reds in total control of the tie.
Talk about timing. Those were Liverpool’s only efforts on target in the entire game, but Jurgen Klopp won’t care one bit.
Nor will the 2000 or so Liverpudlians who made themselves heard throughout and who celebrated accordingly at the end.
What a trip they’ve had, and what a chance their side has in this season’s competition. If they can win like this when playing like this, imagine what they can do when they really click.
Liverpool in the Champions League this season:???? 7 games???? 7 winsWinning machines ???? pic.twitter.com/hUcDwDkKYp
They had to weather a storm at times, but when all was said and done Inter, for all their energy and their passion and their right-to-left switches, failed to manage a shot on target themselves.
Liverpool, using all their experience, took advantage ruthlessly.
Firmino was the one who prised the padlock open. The Brazilian may not be the force he was two or three years ago, but he’s still a more than useful asset to Klopp and his team.
He’d been pretty ordinary since emerging as a half-time substitute, in place of Diogo Jota, but he timed his run perfectly to meet Andy Robertson’s near-post corner, his glancing header nestling neatly inside Samir Handanovic’s far post.
In an instant, the world changed. Eight minutes later Virgil van Dijk knocked down a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross at the back post, and Salah, almost non-existent until then, was there to sweep the ball home.
The Egyptian’s first Reds goal in six weeks could hardly have been more welcome, and Klopp will reflect on the positive impact made by his substitutes; not only Firmino, but Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Luis Diaz too.
He said this was the strongest squad he’s ever had, and we saw why here.
You shall not pass ????♂️ pic.twitter.com/Ju04SAOrL8
He had sprung a surprise with his starting XI, giving Harvey Elliott his European debut and his first start since September 12.
At 18 years and 318 days, Elliott became the youngest player to start a Champions League game for the Reds.
It was a big call, with Henderson and Keita, as well as James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, on the bench.
Elliott showed only flashes in his 58 minutes on the field, but this will not be the last time we see him on a stage such as this, mark these words.
And so on to Anfield we go. Liverpool have back-to-back home games in the Premier League now, a chance to make up some ground in their pursuit of Manchester City.
After that comes the Carabao Cup final, and next month brings an FA Cup fifth round tie with Norwich before the second leg against Inter.
Big games, big stages, big possibilities. A big few months lie in wait for Klopp and his side.