Liverpool into semi-finals after Benfica thriller
Liverpool remain in the hunt for an historic quadruple after a thrilling draw with Benfica secured a two-legged Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.
Having established a 3-1 lead in Lisbon, Liverpool extended their advantage with Ibrahima Konate’s powerful 21st-minute header from a Kostas Tsimikas corner.
But after Roman Yaremchuk broke through to beat Alisson and make it 3-2 on the night, Darwin Nunez scored a late equaliser.
Nunez was then denied by Alisson as Benfica finished strongly but Liverpool held out to advance 6-4 on aggregate.
They now host Villarreal – the club they beat in the semi-finals of the Europa League in 2016 – on 27 April before travelling to Spain for the second leg on 4 May.
The games are coming thick and fast for Liverpool at the business end of the campaign, with a huge FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City up next on Saturday – the second meeting between the Premier League’s top two in a week.
They head for Wembley knowing they are one round away from a third Champions League final in five seasons under Jurgen Klopp.
The Liverpool boss made seven changes to the side that started the first leg in Portugal last week, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane among those on the bench.
There was a return for James Milner who, at the age of 36, became the oldest Englishman to start a Champions League match since 37-year-old David Beckham did so for Paris St-Germain in 2012-13.
The Reds were made to work hard for their place in the semi-finals as Benfica came out fighting but the damage was done in the first leg.
After Saturday, Liverpool – who trail leaders Manchester City by a single point – have a chance to return to the top of the Premier League, for 24 hours at least, when they host Manchester United in the Premier League the following Tuesday.
It will require a monumental effort for Liverpool, who won the Carabao Cup in February, to finish the season with four trophies and they will certainly have to defend better than they did in this game.
But with just a few weeks of the season left, they remain in the hunt for what would be an incredible feat.
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