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Diaz, Mane and Konate put the Reds on pole for the Champions League semi-finals despite a Nunez strike

IN a brilliant spell at the Stadium of Light, Jurgen Klopp’s side made things look so easy you could have thought they were playing Sunderland.

They led 2-0 through goals from Ibrahima Konate and Sadio Mane and were in full control.

Liverpool got one foot in the Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 win at Benfica

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Liverpool got one foot in the Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 win at BenficaPhoto credit: Getty
Goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz sealed victory in Portugal

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Goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz sealed victory in PortugalPhoto credit: Getty

The only variable was whether Liverpool would play Villarreal or Bayern Munich in the semifinals.

After making life difficult for himself by gifting Benfica’s Darwin Nunez a goal, Luis Diaz scored at the very end to restore the two-goal lead.

And so it’s certainly a draw. It will be Liverpool who move to Spain or Germany in the bottom four.

Before the title decision with Manchester City on Sunday, Klopp now has a few things to consider.

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But rest assured Konate will make way for Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson, also a surprise replacement, will return to the heart of Klopp’s midfield.

Nonetheless, the midfield of Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita and Fabinho – along with the back four – was in absolute control for that first half and Klopp’s substitutions looked spot on.

Benfica entered the game with the help of their former coach Bruno Lage.

The Wolves boss sent his old club all Liverpool data from their clash at Molineux in December which only resulted in a 90th-minute winner from Divock Origi.

But apart from constant jumps, Benfica didn’t manage to get angry in the final third.

Konate kicked off the Reds in Lisbon

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Konate kicked off the Reds in LisbonPhoto credit: Reuters
The central defender jumped up after a corner in the 17th minute and headed in

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The central defender jumped up after a corner in the 17th minute and headed inPhoto credit: Getty

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It’s funny considering Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were the deadliest foes in a World Cup play-off just a week earlier.

But here they combined brilliantly and could have scored a goal each, but Konate put them ahead.

It was incredibly bad defending against a team at those stages of the tournament. Andy Robertson’s swinging corner was decent enough.

But Konate was able to attack the ball and head the ball to the ground and into the net without any challenge from Brazilian striker Everton.

Sadio missed a free header and Otamendi missed a similar chance by failing to make contact.

Sadio Mane doubled Liverpool's lead in the 34th minute

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Sadio Mane doubled Liverpool’s lead in the 34th minutePhoto credit: Rex
Mane snagged a fine header from Luis Diaz

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Mane snagged a fine header from Luis DiazPhoto credit: Reuters

And Otamendi was left to regret that as Liverpool went straight up at the other end to score.

This was made possible by a brilliant, intelligent diagonal pass to Diaz, who, while deep in opposition territory, was not close enough to score with a header.

Instead, he nodded the ball down Mane’s run, who had the best chance from just a few meters away.

Diaz was smiling and no wonder as the player played for Porto until January and is not very popular in those parts.

Mane didn’t even bother to celebrate what strikers do when they score a fifth goal at home against a second division team in the Carabao Cup.

Darwin Nunez pulled one back for Benfica in the 49th minute

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Darwin Nunez pulled one back for Benfica in the 49th minutePhoto credit: Getty
Nunez is on the radar of several Premier League sides including Arsenal

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Nunez is on the radar of several Premier League sides including ArsenalPhoto credit: Reuters

Alexander-Arnold delivered another class pass to unleash Salah. Liverpool’s number 10 from a couple of weeks ago would have buried the chance but here he gave the keeper an easy save.

Benfica had a couple of chances but their finish was poor and Alisson wasn’t tested until he had to take the ball out of the net.

Konate was the clear culprit and it was really bad as he failed to clear a Rafa Silva cross.

Instead, the ball went straight through his legs and Nunez took a touch before sending a shot into the corner, Alisson having no chance.

Nunez had a chance to equalize but delivered a terrible header and Alisson slid a decent drive away from Everton.

Diaz had the last word on his return to Portugal

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Diaz had the last word on his return to PortugalPhoto credit: Getty
The former Porto winger scored in a 3-1 win for Liverpool in the 87th minute

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The former Porto winger scored in a 3-1 win for Liverpool in the 87th minutePhoto credit: Getty

Seeing the game changing, Klopp made a triple substitution with Henderson replacing Thiago, Jota for Salah and Firmino for Mane

Nunez appeared for a penalty after claiming he was pushed by Virgil van Dijk. While it wasn’t a penalty, van Dijk was silly to put his arm out in front of the Uruguayan.

And then, with just three minutes left, Diaz had the last laugh.

What a brilliant signing he has been since arriving in January and never before has a mid-season player adapted to the Premier League so quickly.

But he read Keita’s clever pass, rounded the keeper and put it into the empty goal.

Klopp, looking strained, smiled as he high-fived assistant Pep Lijnders.

You won’t admit it, but the quadruple is still active.

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/5059001/liverpool-benfica-luis-diaz-sadio-mane-ibrahima-konate/ Diaz, Mane and Konate put the Reds on pole for the Champions League semi-finals despite a Nunez strike

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