Liverpool moved into the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-0 victory over Salzburg on Tuesday as a potentially tricky encounter turned into a second-half cruise with quickfire goals from Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah.
Juergen Klopp’s side needed a point in Austria to be sure of qualification and after missing several good chances in the first half, they ended up with a comfortable win which should have been by a more convincing margin.
Two goals inside two second-half minutes from Keita and Salah, with the Egyptian finding the net with an exquisite finish from a tight angle, helped Liverpool finish top of Group E with 13 points.
That was one point ahead of Napoli, who beat Genk 4-0, while Salzburg, who finished third with seven points, will continue in the Europa League.
“It was a tough game but we were there – that’s what I love from my team. Salzburg did so many smart things, but we had big chances. It was a very intense game. In the second half they obviously couldn’t cope with that intensity,” said Klopp.
Although the away defeat and a home draw with Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli had left Liverpool on edge going into the final round of games, their superior quality showed in the end.
With much at stake for two attacking sides, the game began in a frantic and open fashion and Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker had to be alert in the seventh minute to keep out a close-range effort from South Korean Hwang Hee-chan after good work from the lively Japanese forward Takumi Minamino.
Mane missed a good opportunity, curling wide from the edge of the box and then brought Salzburg keeper Cican Stankovic into action with a diagonal drive.
Highly-rated Norwegian striker Erling Haaland, who has been linked with a move to Manchester United, failed to make the most of space inside the box and his low shot was easily dealt with by the Liverpool keeper.