Liverpool have successfully sealed qualification for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League after dispatching Austrian champions RB Salzburg on their own turf. The Reds needed to avoid defeat at the hands of Salzburg on a ground where Jesse Marsch's men have lost just one game in the last 73, and did so in spectacular fashion after a cagey first half.
Naby Keita opened the scoring for the away side after a blazing run from Sadio Mane forced Salzburg keeper Cican Stanković to come off his line, after which Mane expertly lofted the ball into the box. The cross was met by Keita's head and was dispatched past a helpless defence.
Just moments later, Egyptian superstar Mohamed Salah nicked the ball on the edge of the Salzburg penalty box and dragged both the keeper and the defender wide, before finding the back of the net from a near-impossible angle. The former Chelsea man had a sub-par game by his standards but made it up by scoring an absolutely astonishing goal to all but seal the game.
Salzburg were inventive and caused Alisson Becker a fair amount of trouble, but it was nothing that the Brazilian couldn't deal with. Their final ball was a let-down on the day and star forward Erling Håland had an off day as he spurned a number of half-decent chances, with his touch and final ball both leaving more to be desired.
As Liverpool have successfully sealed their berth in the knockout stages, we take a look at 3 reasons that lead to a crucial win for the defending champions.
Having lost midfield lynchpin Fabinho to injury just under a fortnight ago, Jurgen Klopp had a problem on his hands as the Brazilian has been colossal for the Reds since his arrival. However, they have made relatively light work of Fabinho's absence as a number of key midfield figures have stepped up their performances in recent weeks.
Naby Keita, returning to the Red Bull Arena for the first time since his move last summer from RB Salzburg to Liverpool, had a phenomenal outing in keeping with his rich vein of form. The dynamic midfielder won a staggering 8 duels in the middle of the park, completing 4 dribbles out of 4 attempted and helped out defensively as well, winning 2 out of 3 tackles attempted.
His goal aside, the Guinean international ran the show in the middle third alongside the ever-reliable Gini Wijnaldum and skipper Jordan Henderson. The Dutchman had a quiet night but was mopping up loose balls at both ends of the pitch. The Englishman, on the other hand, did a fabulous job deputising for the injured Fabinho and constantly broke up play playing as the #6.