Luis Diaz had to be it.
The Colombian winger was the last player Benfica fans wanted to see rush onto a through-ball and execute an emphatic finish to cap Liverpool’s 3-1 triumph in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.
After all, Diaz was a player for Porto, Benfica’s main rival in Portugal, until joining Liverpool in January. It’s little surprise that he was whistled by home supporters — and even pelted with objects thrown from the seats — as he spun away in joy after scoring a critical third goal in the 87th minute.
Diaz sprinted onto Naby Keita’s deflected pass that split Benfica’s defence, rounded the goalie, and placed his finish into the unguarded net from a close angle.
“He got a nice reception, didn’t he?” Andrew Robertson, Liverpool defender, remarked with a smile. “It was a good finish for him and a really important goal for us. It gives us a two-goal cushion, which makes a difference.”
Diaz, who was booed whenever he touched the ball, was instrumental in Liverpool’s second goal, which came in the 34th minute when he nodded down a precise long throw by Trent Alexander-Arnold, allowing Sadio Mane to tap home from close range. That followed Ibrahima Konaté’s first goal for Liverpool, which came off an outswinging corner from Robertson in the 17th minute.
Benfica could easily have fallen further behind by halftime, but they took the game to the six-time European champions in the second half, and Uruguay attacker Darwin Nez seized on a mistake by Konaté to score in the 49th minute.
There were a few more tense moments for Liverpool, including one in which goalkeeper Alisson Becker was almost dispossessed on the edge of his area by Rafa Silva, but Diaz’s shot ensured Jurgen Klopp’s squad would win their sixth consecutive game in all competitions.
The Reds have conquered the latest hurdle in their quest for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies, and the semifinals are now within reach. They have already won the English League Cup, are in the FA Cup semifinals, and are one point behind Premier League leader Manchester City.
Klopp even considered taking off star strikers Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in the 61st minute, maybe in preparation for the league match against Manchester City on Sunday.
City will also be coming off a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the other quarterfinal on Tuesday.