Roberto Firmino scored twice as Liverpool drew 3-3 with a gutsy Benfica on Wednesday to advance to the Champions League semifinals 6-4 on aggregate.
The Lisbon side exited the competition with the applause of their own fans — and Liverpool’s — ringing in their ears after delivering a performance full of belief and commitment until the end.
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Jurgen Klopp’s side came into the home match with a decided advantage after beating Benfica 3-1 in the first leg in Lisbon, and effectively killed off the tie when Ibrahima Konate nodded home a corner from Konstantinos Tsimikas in the 21st minute.
« It was not exactly what we wanted but it is absolutely not important, » said Klopp. « If we played the best game of the season tonight it wouldn’t have made it more likely to get to the final. We are through and that’s all that matters and I’m really happy. »
Benfica pulled one back just after the half-hour mark through Goncalo Ramos and the teams went into the break tied at 1-1 with Liverpool leading 4-2 on aggregate.
Diogo Jota set up Firmino for a close-range finish in the 55th minute and the Brazil international added another soon after from a Tsimikas assist as Liverpool booked passage to the UCL final four in style.
Benfica admirably stuck at the task and pulled two goals back in the latter stages to return a minor degree of tension to Anfield.
Substitute Roman Yaremchuk made it 3-2, the Ukrainian forward latching on to a through ball from Alejandro Grimaldo and rounding Alisson before sliding his finish into the empty net.
The goal was initially flagged for offside but allowed after a video review.
It was a similar story for their equalizer on the night — with Darwin Nunez’s effort, after Benfica beat Liverpool’s offside trap, also ruled out before the intervention from VAR to level the match at 3-3 on the night.
The impressive Nunez had an effort disallowed in stoppage time, but this time VAR backed the on-field call and Liverpool could evade what might have been a scary final few minutes.
« All Benfica fans must be proud of this campaign. We had a difficult group stage, and then faced Ajax and Liverpool. As we advanced the opponents became more difficult, but we gave a good account of ourselves, » said Benfica manager Nelson Verissimo.
Liverpool’s thoughts will now turn to their FA Cup semifinal with Premier League title rivals Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday (stream live on ESPN+ at 10:30 a.m. ET).
In the Champions League, Klopp’s side will now face Villareal, who shocked Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, in the first leg of their semifinal matchup at Anfield on April 27.