LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool didn’t need its best players to secure progress to the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp opted to rest stars like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and saw his backups play out a wild 3-3 draw with Benfica in the second leg of the quarterfinals to wrap up a 6-4 aggregate win.
Villarreal awaits Liverpool in the last four.
Ibrahima Konaté, one of the scorers in Liverpool’s 3-1 win in the first leg, netted another header for Klopp’s team for the first goal and Roberto Firmino added two more in the second half at Anfield.
Gonçalo Ramos had made it 1-1 on the night in the 32nd minute — keeping Benfica in with the unlikeliest of chances — but Liverpool never looked like squandering its big advantage, even though substitute Roman Yaremchuk and Darwin Núñez scored goals for the visitors in the 73rd and 82nd minutes, respectively.
Liverpool stayed on course to win the competition for a seventh time, and for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies this season. That Klopp was able to rotate so heavily after building a commanding lead in Lisbon last week should enable Liverpool to field a full-strength team against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals on Saturday.
City wasn’t in such a luxurious position Wednesday, taken all the way by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish capital where a 0-0 draw sealed a 1-0 aggregate victory. City will face Real Madrid in the semifinals.