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Konate's Benfica Performance Showed Both His Potential And How Far He Still Has To Come

Konate's Benfica Performance Showed Both His Potential And How Far He Still Has To Come
By Gary Connaughton
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It's advantage Liverpool in their Champions League quarter-final tie against Benfica, although they were made to work hard for the result in the second half.

The English club entered the game this evening as favourites to take command of the tie in Lisbon, with Klopp's side dominating right from the outset.

They could have had a couple of goals inside the opening ten minutes, with the breakthrough coming soon after from the head of Ibrahima Konate.

The Frenchman was in sublime form in the first 45 minutes. While the home side did not pose all that many problems, he quickly snuffed out any brief attacks they did manage to put together. His mix of pace and strength was a sight to behold, simply brushing off Benfica attackers at times. When the ball went in behind, he more often than not cruised by the opposition to pick up possession.


In the opening half, Liverpool looked like they could produce a cricket score in this fixture. When Sadio Mane doubled their lead it looked as though the tie was over, with the visitors going on to miss a number of chances to extend their lead before the interval.

Then all of a sudden, it was game back on.

Having been the best player on the pitch up to that point in the game, Ibrahima Konate would produce a horrific mistake to give Benfica hope in the tie. He made an absolute mess of his attempted clearance to allow Darwin Nunez to half the deficit.



Benfica were revitalised from this point. Having perviously looked to be on course for a hiding, they suddenly found themselves pushing for an equaliser and troubling Liverpool at the back.

Luckily for the Premier League side, they managed to regain control after that initial pressure.

It was them who looked more likely to score in the closing stages, with Luis Diaz restoring their two goal cushion in the final minutes.



The contest would ultimately finish 3-1 ahead of next week's return leg at Anfield.

Ibrahima Konate has big influence in Liverpool win

Tonight, Liverpool fans got a glimpse at both what Ibrahima Konate could become and where he is currently lacking.


He has been used sparingly since signing last summer. However, Konate had hardly put a foot wrong when he has stepped on the pitch for Liverpool. The £36million fee forked out to bring him from RB Leipzig already looks like an absolute steal.

While Joel Matip is himself only 30-years old, you get the sense that the France U21 international is going to steadily take more and more playing time away from his teammate. Liverpool are a club that always plans for the future and you can see Konate making that spot alongside Virgil van Dijk his own over the course of the next 18 months or so.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, someone who does not hand out compliments too easily, was hugely impressed with the defender having faced him earlier in this season's Champions League:


I asked to exchange shirts with Liverpool defender Konate. He won all the fights with me on the ground and in the air.

I told him that he will be a great defender in the future and that he [should] remember my words well.

Jurgen Klopp has been known to slowly integrate new players into his team, a path followed by Konate. There have been few calls for him to receive more playing time considering the form of Matip, with this game giving a good insight into both sides of the argument in terms of awarding him more playing time.

Mistakes such as the one tonight was not one you would expect to see from the club's regular centre back pairing, perhaps giving an insight as to why we have not seen the 22-year old feature more often.

Matip will be safe in his position for now. As tonight's performance showed, Konate has all of the tools required to be a world class centre back in the modern game. Equally, it was also an example of how far he has to go before he can reach such a status.

As Liverpool enter a crunch period in their season, rotation is likely to become less and less frequent. The youngster could find playing time more difficult to come by.

None of that hampers his potential to become a top class player in the years ahead, however. That is a path he on which is already well on the way.

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