Liverpool showed the stuff of champions in their 2-0 win away at RB Salzburg on Tuesday night, as two goals in as many minutes secured their route to the Champions League knockout phase.
Naby Keita put the Reds ahead, nodding in against his former club before Mohamed Salah put the game beyond reach with a stunning second goal from a near-impossible angle.
The Reds had to survive a spirited first half-performance from Salzburg but they showed a real clinical edge to clinch not only qualification but top spot in Group E. Jürgen Klopp's men's relentless pursuit of titles continues, however it wasn't plain sailing for the reigning European champions and the Merseysiders were made to sweat.
Let's go back to the beginning...
It was billed as a vital game for the Reds, and Liverpool's players knew the importance of progressing to the last 16.
But, at the start of the encounter, it was the hosts who appeared the more fired up and really took the game to the Premier League leaders.
Van Dijk to the rescue twice inside the opening minute. Lively start from the hosts #LFC— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) December 10, 2019
What did Salzburg have to drink just before coming out? Absolutely flying start here, Liverpool struggling...— AS English (@English_AS) December 10, 2019
Liverpool had Alisson and Virgil Vvn Dijk to thank for keeping out Salzburg in the early exchange while, at the other end, Sadió Mané came close to breaking the deadlock in a frantic opening ten minutes.
liverpool-salzburg has had more chances in 8 minutes than most games have in 90— Kim McCauley (@lgbtqfc) December 10, 2019
Brilliant double save from Alisson. Then Mane goes close at the other end. Should be 2-2 already. We've played 8mins.— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) December 10, 2019
Alisson made three saves in the first seven minutes against RB Salzburg, already more than Adrian made in the entire 90 minutes against RB Salzburg at Anfield (2).— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 10, 2019
What a start to this Salzburg v Liverpool game.— EiF (@EiFSoccer) December 10, 2019
Alisson heroics saving Liverpool from going behind early, followed by Mané almost bending one in on the other end 30 seconds later.
Electric first 10 minutes!
It was fast and frenetic. Both sides were relentless in their pursuit of the breakthrough, with Naby Keita particularly impressing on his return to his old stomping ground.
Chances. Mane shot saved, Keita shot blocked, Trent volley over.— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) December 10, 2019
Sadio Mané and Naby Keita look up for it against their former club. Great start to the game, Salzburg are thrillling to watch— Ed Aarons (@ed_aarons) December 10, 2019
But the star of the show was the Reds rearguard, and the man widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world.
Chance for Haaland but Alisson saves. Liverpool are certainly in a game though. pic.twitter.com/GQP1MH02jt— Paddy Power (@paddypower) December 10, 2019
Alisson Becker made 6 saves during the first half. Some more difficult than others, all invaluable.— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) December 10, 2019
Then a HUGE chance fell to Salah to settle Liverpool's nerves...but the usually calm and composed Egyptian wasted a glorious chance.
Salah misses another sitter, this time set up by Keita. That was a bigger chance than the first one.— Ian Doyle (@IanDoyleSport) December 10, 2019
Has to score. Great work to set up the chance by Keita. Woeful finish.— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) December 10, 2019
On the stroke of half time, yet another golden opportunity fell the way of Klopp's men.
Very entertaining game. They’ve looked dangerous but our centre-backs and goalie have done really well. Salah and Keita really should have scored with those chances. Can’t afford to miss too many as these have certainly got goals in them.— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) December 10, 2019
A new half but the same old story, another gilt-edged chance missed by Salah and Liverpool fans were starting to fear the worst.
Salah misses another great chance, this time from Mane pass.— Ian Doyle (@IanDoyleSport) December 10, 2019
Could this be one of those nights?
Until...Keita, who had been impressive all night, turned up with the all-important first goal and all connected to Anfield could take a huge sigh of relief.
Naby Keita has been fantastic all game, deserves that goal. 1-0 Liverpool and we move back to the top of the table!— LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) December 10, 2019
Sadio Mane assists Naby Keita to make it 1-0 for Liverpool. Two players who used to play for RB Salzburg come back to haunt them.— FutbolBible (@FutbolBible) December 10, 2019
All of a sudden it was two. Mo Salah had his goal, and what a goal! So quick that certain fans were still celebrating the opener.
KEITA- superb from Mane to set him up. 1-0. This will prompt a response.........NEVERMIND WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLE FINISH! WHAT A FINISH FROM NO ANGLE. NONE!!! GOOD LORD!!!!! THATS HIS HARDEST CHANCE!!!!!— Caught Offside (@COsoccerpod) December 10, 2019
The forward had endured a pretty woeful night up until he produced a sublime finish. Almost touching the corner flag, the Egyptian somehow managed to turn the ball home and double the Merseysiders' lead.
Mo Salah makes it 2-0 Liverpool with a great strike and that’s the dagger that should put things to bed. Liverpool with a double in a blink to flash their championship quality.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) December 10, 2019
That's a special finish from Salah. Tucked away from a seemingly impossible angle having earlier missed 3 sitters. Came from Henderson's searching long ball forward.— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) December 10, 2019
Mo Salah swerving sitters to serve up a sublime finish. Wow.— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) December 10, 2019
From then on it was comfortable for the men from Merseyside, the win appeared a formality and all could look forward to the knockout stages.
Someone’s got to knock a Jurgen Klopp Liverpool side out of a European tie over two legs for the first time ever, otherwise it’s off to Istanbul in May!— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) December 10, 2019
But not everyone was happy with the Reds success... better luck next time Erling.