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Liverpool edge through despite defeat to Inter in UCL

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MILAN: Egyptian star footballer Mohamed Salah admitted that Liverpool might have suffered from complacency as they crept into a fourth Champions League quarter-final in five years despite a rare 1-0 defeat at Anfield to Inter Milan.

Alexis Sanchez’s red card shortly afterward punctured any Inter momentum and Liverpool comfortably held out with the extra man despite slipping to just a third defeat in 44 games in all competitions this season.

The Reds had been on a 12-game winning run to keep alive their hopes of a historic quadruple of trophies.

The Italian champions were unable to scale the mountain they had to climb after losing the first leg 2-0 at home three weeks ago despite Lautaro Martinez’s sensational strike into the top corner just after the hour mark.

After lifting the League Cup last month, Jurgen Klopp’s men are now into the last eight of both the Champions League and FA Cup and have a game in hand to cut Manchester City’s six-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

And Salah hopes they can learn from a rare off night in front of goal as they failed to score for just the fourth time this season.

“We lost the game and maybe that will give us a push,” said the Egyptian, who hit the post twice in the second half with glorious chances. 

“Maybe in the back of our minds we were overconfident. It’s a good game for us to learn from.”

Inter were left to rue conceding two late goals in Milan three weeks ago after they had enjoyed the better of the game for much of the first leg.

“We’ve got to this stage for the first time in 10 years. We played against the strongest team in Europe in this time & were their equals,” said Inter boss Simone Inzaghi.

“Sometimes it just takes a single episode to change the course of a game.”

The Italian champions again controlled the first half, but Liverpool had the better chances as Joel Matip crashed a header off the bar before, from the resulting corner, Virgil Van Dijk’s goal-bound effort was deflected wide.

After a subdued first 45 minutes, Liverpool was fired up by Klopp at the break and should have taken the lead on the eight minutes after the restart when Salah turned a loose ball inside the box onto the post.

At the other end, Martinez looked to have wasted the chance to get Inter back in the tie when he dragged a shot wide from the edge of the area.

But the Argentine made amends in spectacular fashion when he arrowed an effort into the top corner from outside the box on 62 minutes.

Inter’s joy lasted barely a minute before they were reduced to 10 men by Sanchez’s ill discipline.

The Chilean had been lucky to escape with just a yellow card for a dangerous lunge on Thiago Alcantara just before half-time and stupidly dived in on Fabinho to earn a second yellow.

Salah hit the post again 15 minutes from time and only an incredible block from Arturo Vidal denied Luis Diaz in stoppage time as Liverpool failed to make their numerical advantage count.

“I think over the two legs it is completely fine they won one, we won one, and we are through,” said Klopp. “We could have done better against an opponent who makes life really uncomfortable.”

Bayern blast into Champions League quarters

Robert Lewandowski scored a record-breaking 11-minute hat-trick to send Bayern Munich sailing into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 7-1 win at home to Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday.

The Polish striker had three goals to his name by the 23rd minute — the earliest anyone has ever completed a hat-trick in a Champions League game — as Bayern shook off their early nerves to crush Salzburg.

“This was definitely a statement from us, and it gives us hope that there is more like this to come,” Bayern captain Manuel Neuer told Amazon Prime after his side reached the last eight for a record 20th time. 

Austrian champions Salzburg had held Bayern to a 1-1 draw in the first leg, but their hopes of an upset in Munich were left in tatters when Lewandowski scored a tap-in and two penalties to send Bayern on their way to a famous victory. 

With just ten minutes and 27 seconds between Lewandowski’s first and third goals, it was the fastest of the six hat-tricks the Pole has now scored in the Champions League.

“We knew we had to attack the box early today and get Lewy into the game because he is so hard to defend against,” said Thomas Mueller.

“We all knew how important this game was today. If we had been knocked out, it would have been a very sad next three months for us,” he added.

Bayern started with an attack-heavy 3-5-2, but they looked nervy at the back and there were chances at both ends in the opening minutes.

Lewandowski forced a sharp save from Philipp Koehn with the first attack of the game, while Nicolas Capaldo was denied at the other end by a brilliant block from Kingsley Coman. 

Lewandowski gratefully tucked away a penalty to give Bayern the lead on 12 minutes after he was brought down by Maximilian Woeber in the box.

Initially, the lead didn’t seem to calm Bayern’s nerves, and Salzburg almost equalized as Nicolas Seiwald fizzed a fierce shot over the bar at the other end. 

But Lewandowski was in a predatory mood, and he soon added two more to complete his hat-trick and put the tie beyond the Austrian side.

Having smashed a second penalty into the bottom corner to double the lead, he added a third on the counter-attack, chasing a loose ball over the line after a one-on-one with Koehn. 

Bayern was now purring, and Serge Gnabry drilled home a crushingly inevitable fourth after an elegant passing move on the half-hour mark. 

Mueller curled a brilliant shot into the bottom corner to make it 5-0 shortly after halftime before Bayern switched on cruise control. 

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