Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane supplied the goals that saw the club finally record a home victory – albeit in name only, with the match taking place in Budapest rather than at Anfield due to Covid-enforced travel restrictions.
The change in scenery and competition was wondrous for Jurgen Klopp’s men, who have a platform to salvage their season on the continent, with their form in the top-flight sitting them eighth in the standings.
It was peculiar watching Liverpool be so many shades of the side we remember: gegenpressing, countering with credence and even looking dangerous from dead-ball situations. While England’s top flight has witnessed them falter in the most flabbergasting of ways, Europe has been a stage of freedom and familiarity.
Of course, having a two-goal cushion allowed the ‘hosts’ a sense of security and comfort. Leipzig’s need to chase the game, therefore offering space and ample opportunities on the break, was also helpful.
Liverpool clearly have specific tactical issues to solve in the Premier League, but shifting Fabinho back into midfield – which occurred for the first time since October – can be a major part of that puzzle.
He provided greater protection for the raw centre-back partnership of Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips – the latter imperious in the air – while affording Thiago the chance to be more offensive.
There was still a common denominator between Liverpool in England and Liverpool in Europe: their inability to convert clear-cut chances. It was staggering how many openings were wasted, mostly on account of rushing through the decision-making process. Where the forwards would have been calm and instinctive when confident, they were over-thinking and snatching at chances.
Alisson thwarted Dani Olmo early on, before an avalanche of Liverpool attacks. Peter Gulacsi smothered a Diogo Jota header with a fine reaction save and the Portugal international saw his toe-poke later denied by the goalkeeper too, also finding the side-netting before half-time.
In-between those efforts, Thiago sent Salah clear with a karate-kicked pass and the Egyptian looked certain to score, but aimed his strike straight at Gulacsi. The ball broke to Mane, who rushed in and headed the ball into the ground.
If it was shocking that Liverpool hadn’t gone ahead on the night in that moment, that sentiment only grew with a flurry of further attempts from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Salah and Mane.
Eventually, the breakthrough arrived on the 70-minute mark with their attacking trio combining to devastating effect and Salah firing a low left-footed drive into the bottom right-hand corner from Jota’s pass.
They had waited so long for that sense of relief, and just four minutes later, Mane had gotten another.
Substitutes Divock Origi and Naby Keita worked well in the build-up with the former crossing into the danger area for the Senegal forward to stab in.
Liverpool were never in any discomfort on the night or in the tie in general. They, quite significantly, looked like themselves.
Teleporting this kind of credence and control into the league will be the main objective, but there will be big European dreams colouring their immediate thoughts.