Friday, September 29, 2023

Champions League: Liverpool enter quarterfinals despite loss to 10-man Inter Milan

Champions League
Inter Milan's Alessandro Bastoni in action with Liverpool's Fabinho during the Champions League match at Anfield, March 9, 2022. - Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

LIVERPOOL, March 9: Liverpool stuttered into the quarterfinals of the Champions League with a 2-1 aggregate win over Inter Milan after suffering a 1-0 loss to the Italian side, who were reduced to 10 men, at Anfield on Tuesday.
After a cagey first half, a superb drive into the top corner from Lautaro Martinez in the 62nd minute put Inter ahead on the night.
But just when they looked capable of springing a surprise, the visitors found themselves down a man after Alexis Sanchez was dismissed for a second yellow card after catching Liverpool midfielder Fabinho.
It was a harsh decision against Sanchez, who had won the ball but caught the Brazilian with his follow through and Inter’s bench furiously protested.
The dismissal killed Inter’s momentum with Liverpool never looking in danger of conceding again.
“Lautaro’s goal had hit Liverpool, but Sanchez’s expulsion influenced the last half hour of play,” said Inter coach Simone Inzaghi ruefully.
“A victory at Anfield it’s nice, but it’s useless for the qualification,” he added.
After their 2-0 loss at the San Siro, Inzaghi’s Inter came to Anfield knowing that they needed to find the perfect balance of defensive security and clinical finishing and they began in confident fashion.
Inter’s shape was compact and their movement clever while Liverpool struggled to get into their normal rhythm, perhaps wary of over-committing.
Still, it was the home side who came nearest to taking a first-half lead with Joel Matip heading against the bar and then Virgil van Dijk heading wide from a Trent Alexander Arnold corner.
Hakan Calhanoglu forced Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker into action in the 42nd minute and on the stroke of halftime Trent Alexander-Arnold, finding space on the right, flashed a shot just wide.
Liverpool struck the woodwork again after the interval, with Mohamed Salah hitting the post after Inter keeper Samir Handanovic had rushed out to foil Diogo Jota.
But the game truly came alive when Martinez, having just wasted a good opportunity, picked the ball up on Liverpool’s right and took a step inside before unleashing an unstoppable drive.
It was a short-lived moment of promise for Inter though, with Sanchez departing soon after, and it was Klopp’s men who looked the more likely to add to the scoring.
Salah hit the post for the second time in the game and then substitute Luis Diaz saw a stoppage-time shot cleared off the line by Arturo Vidal.
Although the defeat ended Liverpool’s seven-match winning run in the Champions League they achieved their goal of reaching the last eight for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
“The art of football is to lose the right games. I still hate it, but if there’s any game we could afford to lose it was tonight,” said Klopp.
“Over the two games I think we deserved it. It is fair that we are through against a tough opponent”.
Bayern Munich storm into Champions League quarterfinals, led by Lewandowski’s record hat-trick
Robert Lewandowski scored a record-breaking 11-minute hat-trick to send Bayern Munich sailing into the Champions League quarterfinals with a 7-1 win at home to Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday.
The Polish striker had three goals to his name by the 23rd minute — the earliest anyone has ever completed a hat-trick in a Champions League game — as Bayern shook off their early nerves to crush Salzburg.
The Austrian champions had held Bayern to a 1-1 draw in the first leg, but their hopes of an upset in Munich were left in tatters when Lewandowski scored a tap-in and two penalties to send Bayern on their way to a famous victory.
With just ten minutes and 27 seconds between Lewandowski’s first and third goals, it was the fastest of the six hat-tricks the Pole has now scored in the Champions League.
Bayern started with an attack-heavy 3-5-2, but they looked nervy at the back and there were chances at both ends in the opening minutes.
Lewandowski forced a sharp save from Philipp Koehn with the first attack of the game, while Nicolas Capaldo was denied at the other end by a brilliant block from Kingsley Coman.
Lewandowski gratefully tucked away a penalty to give Bayern the lead on 12 minutes after he was brought down by Maximilian Woeber in the box.
Initially, the lead didn’t seem to calm Bayern’s nerves, and Salzburg almost equalised as Nicolas Seiwald fizzed a fierce shot over the bar at the other end.
But Lewandowski was in a predatory mood, and he soon added two more to complete his hat-trick and put the tie beyond the Austrian side.
Having smashed a second penalty into the bottom corner to double the lead, he added a third on the counter-attack, chasing a loose ball over the line after a one-on-one with Koehn.
Bayern were now purring, and Serge Gnabry drilled home a crushingly inevitable fourth after an elegant passing move on the half-hour mark.
Thomas Mueller curled a brilliant shot into the bottom corner to make it 5-0 shortly after half time, before Bayern switched on cruise control.
The guests grabbed a consolation goal with a clinical counter-attack 20 minutes from time, 18-year-old Dane Maurits Kjaergaard smashing a Geoff-Hurst-like finish into the top corner past Manuel Neuer.
But the hosts had the last word as Mueller stroked home his second and Lewandowski set up Sane for Bayern’s seventh a few minutes from time. (Agencies/AFP)