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Liverpool explode after 70-min drought; European giant’s big scare — Champions League Wrap

Liverpool put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday with a 2-0 win at Inter Milan which came after a hard-fought encounter at a bubbling San Siro.

Goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah in the last quarter of an hour gave Liverpool a commanding lead ahead of the last-16 second leg at Anfield in three weeks’ time.

The result was harsh on Italian champions Inter, who dominated the contest in front of a passionate home crowd for long periods after the break and struck the woodwork through Hakan Calhanoglu in the 16th minute.

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Liverpool’s midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates with teammates. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)
Liverpool’s midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates with teammates. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)Source: AFP

However they could not find their way past a Liverpool backline impeccably marshalled by Virgil van Dijk and were punished late on by a Reds team who have now won their last seven matches in all competitions.

The last eight now looks a step too far for Inter after making the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in a decade.

Simone Inzaghi’s side started with all the enthusiasm expected of a team back in the knockouts after such a long time away and Lautaro Martinez got the crowd on their feet in the fifth minute with a long range effort which flew just wide.

Liverpool responded almost immediately and established territorial dominance, with a Salah shot well blocked and Thiago Alcantara shooting over from the edge of the box.

Roberto Firmino and Alisson Becker celebrate. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)Source: AFP

However it was Inter who had the best chance of the half through Calhanoglu, who after being fed by the rampaging Ivan Perisic let off a shot from a tight angle which beat Alisson but smashed out off the crossbar.

They were unlucky again 10 minutes later when, after being sent charging down the right flank, Denzel Dumfries flashed over a low cross which was cut out just as it looked destined to find the feet of an unmarked Edin Dzeko.

Inter came out with the bit between their teeth after the interval and swarmed over a clearly flustered Liverpool but again could not get past Van Dijk and company, who kept getting a foot or head in just as danger seemed imminent.

Perisic hung over a beautiful cross in the 52nd minute which Martinez could not quite get to, and a similar pattern was repeated several times with Liverpool rebuffing an increasingly frustrated Inter team unable to convert its supremacy into goals.

Liverpool did not actually have a shot on target for 70 minutes before scoring two rapid-fire goals to get past Inter Milan.

Klopp’s substitutions were outstanding. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)Source: AFP

The away side punished them with their first proper chance of the second half, Firmino beating Alessandro Bastoni to Andy Robertson’s 75th-minute corner and guiding his header past Samir Handanovic.

Salah gave Liverpool a huge advantage eight minutes later with a fortunate strike which squirmed home and gave the Egyptian an incredible eighth goal in seven Champions League games this season.

With the San Siro atmosphere thoroughly deflated, Liverpool then calmly saw out the remainder of the match to almost guarantee themselves a place in next month’s draw for the last eight.

BAYERN SURVIVE BIG SCARE

French winger Kingsley Coman spared his side’s blushes with a late equaliser as Bayern Munich laboured to a 1-1 draw away to Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Thursday.

Coman prodded the ball in at the far post in the last minute of normal time to cancel out Junior Adamu’s first-half opener and save Bayern from a first away defeat in the competition since 2017.

Bayern arrived in Austria looking to bounce back from their shock defeat to Bundesliga minnows Bochum on Saturday, but there were early signs of the same defensive wobbles which had plagued them at the weekend.

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A mistake from Niklas Suele opened up a chance for Brenden Aaronson after just a few minutes, as Salzburg snapped at the heels of the Bayern back line.

The visitors also had chances at the other end, but continued to look vulnerable and Salzburg deserved their lead on 21 minutes.

A soaring long ball from Mohamed Camara opened Bayern up on the counter-attack, and Adamu curled the ball in with an elegant first-time finish.

Adamu had come on as an early substitute for the injured Noah Okafor, and he and his fellow forwards continued to unsettle the Bayern defence before the break.

The hosts had a penalty appeal waved away just before half-time, before sitting back and soaking up pressure in the second half.

But despite dominating possession and running Salzburg’s full-backs ragged, Bayern toiled in their search for an equaliser.

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As the pressure mounted towards the end of the game, Salzburg keeper Philipp Koehn denied Coman with a reflex save and neutralised a sharp counter-attack by snatching the ball from the feet of Leroy Sane.

A mistake from Sane almost allowed Salzburg to kill the game off 10 minutes from time, but Benjamin Pavard denied Adamu his second with a desperate block on the line.

But Bayern’s patience paid off when Coman finally broke the Austrian defences as the clock ticked down towards injury time.

A floating cross from Pavard was flicked on by Thomas Mueller to Coman, who slotted the ball past Koehn to avoid a second shock defeat for Bayern in the space of just five days.

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