Sadio Mane equals Cristiano Ronaldo, while surpassing Lionel Messi and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard as Reds take control of Champions League first leg against Benfica

Sadio Mane surpassed both Lionel Messi and Steven Gerrard as his goal helped Liverpool beat Benfica 3-1 win in the Champions League.

After Ibrahima Konate headed the Premier League side in front, Mane tapped in Liverpool’s second and with that overtook the two icons in different ways.

Mane now has 13 goals in the Champions League knockout stage since the start of the 2017/18 season, which is one more than Messi’s 12.

Mane is also level with Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Meanwhile, the goal was Mane’s 22nd in Europe’s premier club competition, meaning he’s passed Reds icon Gerrard, who scored 21.

Liverpool were utterly dominant in the first half and had numerous good chances to extend their lead with Mohamed Salah going close on three occasions, Naby Keita having two chances, while Luis Diaz had a shot that went just wide.

Darwin Nunez pulled a goal back for Benfica at the start of the second half but Diaz restored Liverpool’s two-goal lead on 87 minutes, putting them in a great position to advance to the semi-finals.

Victory saw Liverpool, who had lost on their last three visits here, equal a club record of five successive away victories in Europe.

The omens had not been great for Benfica, third in Portugal’s Primeira Liga 15 points behind leaders Porto – whom Liverpool had hammered 5-1 and 2-0 in the group stages this season.

Of the six changes manager Jurgen Klopp made, the best one was bringing right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in after almost three weeks out with a hamstring injury.

His pass for Diaz to head into Mane’s path for the second goal was a thing of wonder, while the one he delivered for a strangely off-colour Mohamed Salah to race onto but shoot straight at goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos was almost as good.

It was the first time Klopp had started the midfield trio of Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita, with the latter impressing in attacking areas.

Klopp will be very happy with the result his team got in Lisbon
Klopp will be very happy with the result his team got in Lisbon

In the opening 45 minutes the midfielder almost operated as a fourth forward, joining the attack to have four shots of his own before the break to underline the visitors’ dominance.

That they only had a two-goal lead to their name was nothing short of criminal considering the opportunities which fell to Keita, Diaz, Salah – three times – and Alexander-Arnold.

Konate eventually made the crucial 17th-minute breakthrough when Diaz won a corner which Andy Robertson swung to the far post, where the defender easily out-jumped Everton to beat the goalkeeper with a downward header.

But better was still to come as Alexander-Arnold’s crossfield ball was laid on a plate for Diaz to nod into Mane’s path and the Senegal international could not miss from close range, going past Steven Gerrard’s total of 22 Champions League goals.

Konate put Liverpool in front as he got on the end of Robertson’s corner from the left
Konate put Liverpool in front as he got on the end of Robertson’s corner from the left
Mane then gave Liverpool a deserved 2-0 lead
Mane then gave Liverpool a deserved 2-0 lead

Half-time brought another club record as Liverpool went 19 matches without conceding a first-half goal, although they had barely been troubled with Everton coming closest with a shot into the side-netting.

Four minutes into the second half that all changed after Konate’s calamity trying to deal with Rafa Silva’s low cross.

The goal altered the mood in the stadium and the momentum on the pitch and Klopp’s triple change of Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Jordan Henderson for Mane, Salah and Thiago attempted to restore control.

Further Konate misjudgements caused more problems with Alisson Becker first having to parry Everton’s low shot and then, after the defender went chasing a ball he could never win, Nunez had a penalty claim rejected after tumbling under Virgil Van Dijk’s challenge.

Liverpool looked shaky after Nunez got on the scoresheet
Liverpool looked shaky after Nunez got on the scoresheet
But Diaz eased those nerves on his return to Portugal
But Diaz eased those nerves on his return to Portugal

The pressure seemed to be getting to even the best, with Van Dijk’s air-kick in the centre-circle a brief moment of concern while Alisson also duffed a couple of clearances.

But just when it looked like frustration would get the better of them, Keita’s perfect through-ball allowed Diaz to round the goalkeeper and slot home an angled shot.

On the last two occasions the teams met in the quarter-finals of this competition, in 1978 and 1984, Liverpool went on to lift the trophy and Diaz’s goal put them well on their way to the last four this time.

What do you think?

Written by Francis Okello

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