BUDAPEST, Hungary — Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane pounced on defensive mistakes to score Liverpool’s goals in a 2-0 win over Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday, giving the six-time European champions some respite amid an alarming slump in form domestically.
The Champions League is the only trophy Liverpool can win this season after dropping out of the Premier League title race unexpectedly early, and Jurgen Klopp’s side is already in sight of the quarterfinals after being given a helping hand from Leipzig.
Salah latched on to a misplaced pass from Marcel Sabitzer back to defender Lukas Klostermann in the 53rd minute, raced into the area and slotted his finish past former Liverpool goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.
Only five minutes later, a long ball forward was misjudged by Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele, allowing Mane to run clean through and dispatch a similarly sharp effort beyond Gulacsi.
The first leg of the teams’ last-16 match was played at the Puskas Arena in Hungary because of German restrictions on arrivals from Britain amid the pandemic. Aside from its two-goal advantage, Liverpool will have the added benefit of playing the second leg on March 10 at its home stadium, Anfield, albeit without fans allowed.
Klopp struck a defiant mood ahead of the match, insisting he would not be quitting or taking a break despite looking worn down by his team’s dreadful run of results of late. The Reds are now in sixth place in the Premier League and battling just to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
This win, against a team in second place in the Bundesliga and which reached the Champions League semifinals last season, will be a morale-booster for Klopp’s side. Especially since it came with a clean sheet, a rarity for Liverpool’s injury-hit defence.
Leipzig had its chances, not least when Dani Olmo headed against the base of the post in the fifth minute from Angelino’s left-wing cross. Christopher Nkunku, played through on goal early in the second half, also was denied by the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Alisson.