Red Bull Salzburg 0-2 Liverpool: Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah score to seal top spot in Group E
Report as Jurgen Klopp's side kept the defence of their Champions League title firmly on track
Last Updated: 11/12/19 6:30am
Liverpool overcame a difficult night in Austria to book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League as Group E winners thanks to a 2-0 victory at Red Bull Salzburg.
Last season's Champions League winners started the game needing to avoid defeat to book their spot in the knockout stages, and while they were tested during the first half by Salzburg's vibrant attack, the Premier League side's defence held firm.
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Liverpool created chances of their own during what was a frantic opening 45 minutes, but they had to wait until the second half to break the deadlock, with Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah both scoring in the space of 100 seconds.
The goals knocked the wind out of Salzburg as Liverpool eased through the final 30 minutes and into Monday's last-16 draw - which takes place in Nyon at 11am, UK time - as group winners, despite Napoli's 4-0 win over Genk.
Group E final standings
|3. Red Bull Salzburg||6||2||1||3||7|
How Liverpool passed their Salzburg test
The game started in frantic fashion as Liverpool were looking to avoid the unwanted record of becoming the first Champions League winners since Chelsea in 2012/13 to exit the competition at the group stage. Twice Virgil van Dijk thwarted the hosts in the opening couple of minutes before Mohamed Salah forced Cican Stankovic into a smart save at his near post.
Salzburg continued to cause Klopp's men problems as Hee-Chan Hwang forced Alisson Becker into action, but Liverpool also looked a threat on the counter-attack as Sadio Mane failed to hit the target from the edge of the penalty area.
Red Bull Salzburg: Stankovic (5), Nissen (6), Onguene (7), Wober (6), Ulmer (6), Junuzovic (6), Mwepu (7), Szoboszlai (6), Minamino (7), Hwang (8), Haland (6).
Subs: Daka (6), Okugawa (6), Ashimeru (n/a).
Liverpool: Alisson (8), Alexander-Arnold (7), Lovren (6), Van Dijk (8), Robertson (7), Wijnaldum (6), Henderson (6), Keita (7), Salah (7), Firmino (6), Mane (8).
Subs: Gomez (6), Milner (6), Origi (n/a)
Man of the match: Sadio Mane
Liverpool, who started to get a grip on the game, created another opening for Mane in the 20th minute and on this occasion the Senegal international hit the target. But Stankovic parried the ball away before Keita's shot was blocked and Alexander-Arnold struck wildly over the crossbar.
Salah then spurned another glorious chance. After being teed up by Keita's squared pass, the Egyptian forward dragged a left-footed shot wide of the near post.
There would have been some nerves in the Liverpool dressing room at half-time and they would have got worse when Salah lifted Mane's pass over the crossbar from eight yards and then was beaten to Roberto Firmino's through-ball by the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Cican Stankovic.
However, they were soon dispelled as Liverpool sprung into life thanks to two former Salzburg players midway through the second half.
Naby Keita was the unexpected inclusion in midfield for Liverpool's final Champions League group match against Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. The Guinea international, who impressed in the starting line-up against Bournemouth on Saturday, was one of three changes from the weekend. Georginio Wijnaldum returned from injury from the weekend with Sadio Mane back after being rested against the Cherries.
Mane crossed to Keita and the result was an excellent header into an open goal after the Salzburg goalkeeper ran out to close down the Senegal international.
Salah then doubled Liverpool's lead a minute later, producing a moment of magic from the narrowest of angles after Jerome Ongunene had failed to deal with Jordan Henderson's ball over the top.
Salah, who took the ball around the onrushing Stankovic, was forced wide but, almost from the byline, curled the ball past the near post and into the far corner to seal his side's passage into the last 16.
What the managers said...
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: "I couldn't have more respect actually for what Salzburg is doing. I know how people see it - you think being the best team in Austria is 'OK'. Then you see how good they are, how good they were in the first game, how good they were against Napoli and Genk and then you could come here as the current Champions League winner and misunderstand that situation.
"And I love it, I really love it that my team is so smart that they listen and they put in a shift in like that. Salzburg was unbelievably strong, especially in the first half, but we as well were ready for that fight. We could have scored in the first half already, maybe should have scored. In the second half, it's not easy to keep that intensity; we scored the goals, could have scored more but really massive respect for Jesse [Marsch] and Salzburg for what they did here."
And on Salah's stunning finish Klopp said: "I saw it one time back and for sure it was the most difficult situation he had tonight. But that's exactly what I said about the team - he played really well but didn't score in the situations we expect him usually to score, but staying on track and making such a decisive and very difficult finish, that probably says much more about him than all of the other goals he has scored. So, staying concentrated, belief in the next moment, it was brilliant. A very, very difficult goal but a sensational finish."
Red Bull Salzburg Salzburg coach Jese Mensch: "We knew that we needed our best performance so far and that was our best performance. It was like a heavyweight fight, and in the end Liverpool got a couple more punches in."
Opta stats - Liverpool tighten up at the back
- Liverpool kept a clean sheet in an away Champions League game for the first time in 11 such matches, having conceded 18 goals in their previous 10 away games in the competition.
- The Reds have now progressed from all three of their Champions League group stages under manager Jürgen Klopp; they had been knocked out at this stage in both of their last two group stages in the competition before the German's arrival (2009-10 and 2014-15).
- Red Bull Salzburg's 16 goals scored is the most by a side to be eliminated from their Champions League group since Chelsea also scored 16 but finished third in 2012-13; today was the only one of Salzburg's six Champions League matches in 2019-20 that they failed to score in.
Liverpool now host Watford in the Premier League on Saturday at 12.30pm before a League Cup quarter-final at Aston Villa on December 17, live on Sky Sports.