Jurgen Klopp hailed the resilience and smartness of his team, as they came through a trial of ice and fire in Salzburg.
The young Austrian side put Liverpool under intense pressure in a pressure game where defeat would have knocked the holders out of the Champions League at the first hurdle.
But Virgil van Dijk’s excellence – “he is a superb player and he just killed our situations” said home manager Jesse Marsch – crushed the threatened upset, and goals from Naby Keita and Mo Salah sealed an important victory.
It means the Reds top their group and avoid sides like Juventus , Bayern, PSG and Barca in the next round. And Klopp praised his side’s intelligence.
“I couldn’t have more respect for what Salzburg are doing. You see how good they are, how good they were in the first game, how good they were against Napoli.
“You could come here as current Champions League winners and misunderstand it. But my team is so smart, and I really love it that they listen and put a shift in like that.
“Salzburg were unbelievably strong especially in the first half but we were as well and were ready for the fight. We should have scored in the first half and then in the second half, it’s not easy to keep that intensity but we scored the goals.”
Salah was dangerous all night, but incredibly the forward who has the best goals per game ratio in the club’s history missed four easy chances as the game remained on a knife edge.
But his goal which wrapped up the game was a stunning finish from a ridiculous angle, and Klopp said he was in awe of the forward’s ability to keep producing. Asked how he explains the goal, he replied:
“Thank God I don’t have to. It was for sure the most difficult situation he had tonight.
“He played really well but didn’t score in the situations we expect him to score, staying on track and making such a decisive but difficult finish says probably much more about him than all the other goals he scored.
“He stayed concentrated, believed in the next moment and it was a very, very good goal. A sensational finish.”
It was a perfect night for Klopp and Liverpool, though there was another injury scare for Dejan Lovren as he limped off with what looked a hamstring problem for the second game in succession.
The Reds boss though, eased fears when he said: “We hope it’s exactly the same like last time he felt something and we made a decision. It wasn’t cool. He played really well and was very important in those 55 minutes.
“We don’t know at the moment. We don’t know yet, but it felt similar like last time.”