Luis Díaz brings Liverpool closer to the Champions League semi-finals

It had to be Luis Díaz who left Benfica semi-senied.

Back in Portugal, Diaz assisted on a goal and then struck in the 87th minute as Liverpool beat Benfica 3-1 in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday.

The Colombian attacker played for Porto, Benfica’s classic rival, until he signed with Liverpool in January, so he was the player the fans at the Estádio da Luz least wanted to see celebrating.

But he did, scoring a third goal that could be crucial for the English club.

Enabled by a pass from Naby Keita that managed to be deflected, Díaz dribbled past the goalkeeper and finished off with an empty goal, giving himself the pleasure of celebrating in front of the Benfica fans.

“He made a great reception, didn’t he?” Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson asked with a smile. “It was an excellent finish and a really important goal for us, as it gives us an advantage of two, which could make the difference.”

Hissed every time he touched the ball, Díaz was also a part of Liverpool’s second goal. He tamed a brilliant through ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold and gave up Sadio Mané for his teammate to finish from close range in the 34th.

Liverpool opened the account at 17 through Ibrahima Konaté after a corner kick. It was the central defender’s first goal for the club.

Benfica could well have gone into the break with a worse result, but they improved in the second half and the Uruguayan Darwin Núñez capitalized on a mistake by Konaté for stoppage time at 49.

There were some dangerous moments for Liverpool. In one, the Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker was almost stripped of the ball on the edge of his box by Rafa Silva, before Díaz’s shot guaranteed Jürgen Klopp’s team their fifth straight win in the various competitions in which they participate.

Klopp’s team cleared another hurdle in their quest for unprecedented poker titles this season, approaching the semi-finals in Europe. They have already won the English League Cup, reached the FA Cup semi-finals and are a point behind leaders City in the Premier League.

Klopp had the luxury of taking out Mané and Mohamed Salah, his two main attacking references, at 61, perhaps thinking about the league match against City on Sunday.

City will also face that clash toned by a win in the Champions League quarter-finals, victorious 1-0 against visiting Atlético de Madrid.