Talking Points: Porto 0, Liverpool 5 (Five)

Sadio Mane rediscovered his form and then some as his hat-trick inspired Liverpool to a 5-0 demolition of Porto at the Estádio do Dragão. Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino of course also found the net, and unless a collapse of epic proportions happens in the second-leg, the Reds have already sealed progression into the quarter-finals. Here’s The Anfield Talk’s Lewis (@TizTaz99) with what we can talk about after a lovely evening in Portugal.

Well, that was easy…

It has been nine years since Liverpool have appeared in the Champions League knockout stages, but watching tonight you certainly wouldn’t have thought it. The first 20 minutes did perhaps show Porto’s strengths with Moussa Marega looking a threat with his strength and physicality, but once Mane gave Jürgen Klopp’s side the lead after José Sá’s error, the visitors took full control and offered the Portuguese side no way back into the game. Considering Porto have not lost a game in the League all season, a score draw would have been a pretty good result for Liverpool on paper, but nobody could have foreseen the match resulting in such a one-sided affair. It shines light on the probable weakness of leagues like Liga Nos, and alternatively how the competitive nature of the Premier League is having huge benefits for the English sides, as seen by the three results for Man City, Spurs and now Liverpool thus far. The Reds wouldn’t have had to exert much energy against Southampton on Sunday, but have probably used up even less to see off Porto. A fantastic night’s work.

Mane returns to centre stage with a bang…

There were even calls from some Liverpool fans to drop Mane for this game, but why? There is no point when even a badly performing Mane is comfortably better than anyone from the bench or outskirts of the squad. And there certainly isn’t many better than a Mane on top form, as he finally was again tonight. Two of his goals were possibly rather fortunate – the first should have been saved comfortably and the second was pushed straight to him by Sá, but you have to shoot to be able to score and you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. There was certainly nothing lucky about the Senegalese’s hat-trick sealing goal, a thunderous strike that swerved into the corner. It has been said recently that it is unhealthy for Liverpool to rely solely on two attackers for the rest of the season in Salah and Firmino, so a return to form for Mane is of huge significance and importance. More performances like this and Klopp’s attack will be at top level once again.

Van Dijk oozes class on Liverpool European debut…

The Dutch defender has featured in the Champions League before for Celtic, but in his first game in the competition for Liverpool, Van Dijk displayed all the quality he has been showing in recent weeks for the Reds. It feels truly wonderful to have reliable players at the back once again, and Van Dijk in partnership with Dejan Lovren was brilliant. As mentioned Marega was showing signs of danger early on, but Porto’s attackers were soon marked completely out of the game by the like of Van Dijk. The defender won continuous header, tackles and interceptions, and distributed the ball effectively and efficiently. He possesses all the qualities you could ask for in a modern day centre-half, and performances like tonight show why Klopp was so persistent in his pursuit of Van Dijk’s signature, and why a world record fee was paid.

Fullbacks set platform while Wijnaldum finding away game consistency…

What maturity Trent Alexander-Arnold continues to show for a player of such young age, playing in matches of great importance. A mention must be given to James Milner for the support he offered from midfield to the fullbacks in defence, but both Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were superb once again and laid down a platform from which the defence could be solid and the attack dangerous. Robertson has proven to be a terrific buy for such a small fee, and is completely reliable defensively while offering some threat going forward. With these two, Liverpool could well have the fullback positions sorted for years to come. On to Gini Wijnaldum, and for the second match in a row he performed really well in an away game. He is getting the basics right, and helps massively towards Liverpool controlling the tempo of the game in midfield. It is no surprise that good Wijnaldum performances have been part of sensible and professional second-half displays in the last two matches, where there has been no helter-skelter periods and opposition comebacks. The midfield was always going to be an important area tonight, and Wijnaldum alongside Milner and Jordan Henderson got is spot on.

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