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Winner: Luis Diaz
What a start to life Luis Diaz has had at Liverpool. On his return to Portugal after his move to England, Diaz was electric as he was the danger man for Liverpool on Tuesday night against Benfica. Trent Alexander-Arnold found him streaking into the opposing penalty area with a beautiful diagonal, and Diaz provided a cushioned diving header to set up Sadio Mane for Liverpool’s second of the night.
He then would deliver a crushing blow to Benfica as Naby Keita’s through ball allowed Luis Diaz to tap into an empty net after he breezed past Benfica’s Vlachodimos.
Loser: Mohamed Salah
Mo Salah struggled through a poor evening at the Estadio da Luz, as he failed to capitalize on his chances and create for his teammates. It is perhaps unfair to say he has been out of form, as 5 goals and 1 assist in the past 10 matches is a fantastic output for most players. However, Salah was arguably the best player on the planet in the first half of the season, and it seems like fatigue has understandably caught up to him. A rigorous schedule at the African Cup of Nations that saw his side Egypt require extra time in 4 of the 7 matches, and a Liverpool team that is still fighting in three different competitions have taken their toll. Jurgen Klopp may need to rest him at times to keep him fresh for the stretch run of the season, and that should not be an issue as Liverpool have plenty of capable replacements up front.
Winner: Phil Foden
Manchester City’s squad depth is arguably the best in Europe, and Phil Foden proved that once again on Tuesday in their 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid. City dominated the game as expected for the first 70 minutes, but Atleti stood strong to keep the score at 0-0. Pep Guardiola had the luxury of bringing on Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus, and Foden, as all three would be regular starters at many top European clubs. Foden’s penetration provided the key for City to unlock Atletico’s stout defense, as he was able to slip Kevin de Bruyne through on goal, who slotted past Jan Oblak to give City the 1-0 victory.
Benfica can be proud of their performance against Liverpool, despite a 3-1 loss on home soil. They were the better team in the second half, and they were able to halve Liverpool’s lead when Darwin Nunez pounced on Ibrahima Konate’s terrible clearance to make it 2-1. They had chances to equalize, but it wasn’t meant to be as they were cruelly punished for their lack of sharpness in front of goal when a quick Liverpool counter made it 3-1 for the visitors. Such is life when playing against an elite team like Liverpool, as they will make others pay for their missed chances in a heartbeat. While Benfica is not out of the tie yet, it is difficult to envision Liverpool surrendering a two goal lead next Wednesday at Anfield, which has been a fortress in recent years.
Winners: Atletico Madrid’s defense/Diego Simeone
Although they ultimately succumbed to a 1-0 defeat, Atletico Madrid will not be unhappy with the result. Manchester City are known to score goals for fun at the Etihad, and Atleti was able to shut them out for 70 minutes until Kevin de Bruyne scored the only goal of the match for the hosts. That was the only clear cut chance City were allowed throughout the 90 minutes, as Atletico cleared cross after cross and blocked shot after shot. Since Diego Simeone took over in 2011, Atletico have won 9 of their 16 home Champions League knockout matches, with only one loss, and they will feel like they are still very much alive when the two teams will meet again in Madrid next Wednesday.