Liverpool progressed to the knockout stages of the Champions League as Group E winners following a 2-0 victory over FC Salzburg in Austria.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he loved that his side were “so smart” as they beat Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 to reach the Champions League last 16 as Group E winners.
The defending champions, who needed at least a point to progress, were on the ropes at times in the first half against a side who had scored 87 goals in 24 games.
Two goals in 100 second-half seconds from Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah proved to be the difference between the two sides, who both had a chance of progression heading into the encounter at the Red Bull Arena.
The game could have been different though had the hosts taken one of their six attempts on goal during the first-half, with the forward duo of Hwang Hee-Chan and Erling Braut Haaland proving to be a handful for the Reds’ defence.
They were punished for failing to find their clinical edge as two strikes in quick succession completely changed the complexion of the tie.
Even on his bad days Mohamed Salah is capable of something quite brilliant and he duly delivered against Red Bull Salzburg to guide Liverpool into the Champions League last 16.
The Egypt international missed a hat-trick of chances he would usually put away but scored an outrageously good goal from the narrowest of angles to secure a 2-0 win in Austria as Jurgen Klopp’s side topped Group E.
After a testing first half – not withstanding two missed Salah sitters – Naby Keita put the Reds ahead against his former club, with another ex-Salzburg forward Sadio Mane providing the assist.
The Reds will discover their Champions League last-16 opponents in Monday’s draw in Nyon, Switzerland (11:00 GMT). Real and Atletico Madrid are both possible opponents.
Salzburg drop into the Europa League last 32. Their 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haaland had chances to score but failed to become the first player to score in his first six Champions League appearances.
“It was a bit like a heavyweight boxing contest,” said Salzburg boss Jesse Marsch. “We fought really hard, but they fought back. In the end they got two more punches in. That’s how close the margin is between victory and defeat in the Champions League.”
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