Sadio Mane (25′, 53′ 85′), Mohamed Salah (29′), Roberto Firmino (70′)
Liverpool were back in Champions League knockout stages action for the first time since 2009 tonight, here’s The Anfield Talk’s Sam (@sam_turnerLFC) with how the Reds got on at the Estadio de Dragao.
Liverpool took a massive step towards the Champions League quarter finals as they demolished future Portuguese champions FC Porto 5-0 at the Estádio do Dragão on Wednesday evening. Goals from Sadio Mane (x3), Mohamed Salah (obviously) and Roberto Firmino (of course) meant that Jurgen Klopp’s men return to Merseyside for the second leg with a near insurmountable lead.
Porto were without a significant number of first team players coming into the match, including top scorer Vincent Aboubakar. This made a difficult job a lot easier. The leaders of the Portuguese league have been unbeaten in all competitions (bar a penalty shootout loss to Sporting Lisbon last month) since October last year but from the start you could see the gulf in class between the two teams. Liverpool, playing in their lucky orange strip (Forza Jurgen’s Citrus Reds!!), pressed the opposition in their signature way. They just couldn’t live with the Red’s constant pressure and eventually caved in when, after some luck and some Gini Wijnaldum persistence, the ball fell to Mane on the left side of the penalty area.
Before this it had looked to be more of the same from the Senegalese international (a lot of the ball but not a lot end product) and even here he need a goalkeeper mistake to squeeze the ball under Porto keeper Jose Sa. But it was a much needed confidence booster for him and he would only get better as the night went on. 1-0 to Liverpool in 23 minutes. Nerve settler.
The lead was doubled only 6 minutes later when James Milner cut in off the left and curled a shot onto the post which rebounded to Mo Salah. The Egyptian then produced 3 outstanding touches (one with his head!) to take the ball around the keeper and put the ball past the diving defender and into the net. 30 goals in all competitions this season now for Salah. 2-0 to Liverpool. Comfortable.
The rest of the half was as straightforward as the first 30 minutes. Porto couldn’t really get out of their own half with Liverpool having the vast majority of the possession and, when they didn’t, they were the first to every loose ball. It was a signature Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool display and it could not have come at a better time. This should have always been as simple a game as it ended up being with the amount of injuries and the difference in quality between the two teams but with this being our first Champions League knockout game in NINE years there was always that niggling sense of doubt. We are a team built for European competition however and those credentials shone through here.
It only took 8 minutes in the second half for the score to become 3-0 and it was a beautiful counter attacking goal. There was some more wonderful link up play between Firmino and Salah (including another Bobby flick) which ended up with poor Porto goalkeeper Jose Sa blocking a Firmino shot which ended up perfectly set up for Mane to score his second of the night. Klopp mentioned in the post match interview that it was his favourite of the night and you can see why, it had his style written all over it. Quick and incisive. 3-0 to Liverpool. Cruising.
The last of the front three (and arguably the most impressive on the night) got in on the act as James Milner raced down the left win and pull a brilliant ball back across the box and into the path of one Roberto Firmino. The Brazillian was never going to miss as he clinically finishing the ball into the bottom left corner. 21 goals in all competitions now for Firmino, arguably the teams most important player (alongside Mo of course). 4-0 to Liverpool. Explosive.
The team was then rotated as Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Danny Ings were brought on for Trent Alexander-Arnold (who was brilliant on the night), Firmino and Jordan Henderson. It didn’t really make much difference as the dominance remained. The rout was completed when Sadio Mane lashed the ball into the back of the net from just outside the area. It was a hattrick goal for the winger on a night that will have given him all the confidence in the world. If he doesn’t now go on and produce more performances that we were used to seeing from him then I truly do not know what is wrong. 5-0 to Liverpool. Finished.
The second leg should be all but a formality but we still have to play it on the 6th March. There is now a short break before we play West Ham United at home on 24th February (my birthday don’t ya know). See you then Reds!