Liverpool hasn’t had much fortune this season, so only the heaviest heart would be jealous of this gifts presented by RB Leipzig in Budapest on Tuesday night.
Liverpool was excellent, and well earned their win and its margin. Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were both left one on one by defensive setbacks, with predictable results.
They are much the better teams left in the competition Leipzig but, given their recent run, Liverpool will be grateful for this gentle beginning to the knock-out stage.
Indeed, if Jurgen Klopp could have cherry-picked an opponent, it may well have been this one. Leipzig’s style allowed Liverpool to play to their strengths, pressing and exploiting their high line. Leipzig’s passing was terrible, too.
Marcel Sabitzer, their captain, got the assist for Salah’s goal and by the end, Liverpool seemed happy to let Dayot Upamecano have the ball, knowing it would soon be coming back to them.
If this wasn’t an off night from the recently-acquired centre-half, Bayern Munich’s coaches have an awful lot of work to do.
Liverpool’s goals came across five minutes in the second half when Leipzig’s slackness rewarded them the game. It had been leading that way all evening, the Germans lack the care compelled to progress at this stage in the game.
The first goal came after 53 minutes, started, ironically, by a poor pass from Liverpool.
It went straight to Sabitzer who upped the ante by playing an even worse one. This was not just mistakenly directed but suicidal, falling straight to Salah who was now running on goal with only goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi – a Liverpool understudy for six years – to beat.
He stuck the ball smartly past Gulacsi, and Leipzig’s heads went down. Salah now has more goals across all competitions than he scored last season. Whatever Liverpool have been missing in this campaign, it certainly isn’t his contribution.
Indeed, Leipzig was still reeling from Salah’s intervention when Liverpool added their second.
This came from a long clearance which wasn’t doing much until Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele decided to take it on with all the composure, rationality and confidence of a baby rabbit wandered onto an Autobahn.
He didn’t latch it, didn’t clear it, didn’t deal with it at all really, then fell over. Mane attacked and sped away with Upamecano in miserable, fruitless pursuit.
His change was as assured as Salah’s, taking him into Liverpool top five goalscorers in Europe. There are some names on that list. Steven Gerrard, Salah, Michael Owen and Ian Rush are the others.
So, for a team exhausted, low on confidence, fighting in the dressing-room, with a manager ready to pack it in – most, if not all, of these rumours and impressions are denied, by the way – Liverpool was excellent.
Stunned early, when Leipzig hit a post, they recouped well and swiftly and took control.