By Lewis Rooke – @LV_Rooke
A date with Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League was confirmed as Liverpool beat Porto 6-1 on aggregate in what was a routine victory.
It was all sparked by a beautifully cruel VAR-shaped pin in a gradually expanding Portuguese balloon, which allowed Sadio Mané to open the account for the night.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk completed the scoring to set up a reunion with former Reds Luis Suárez and Philippe Coutinho.
All we need to decide to do is which of them will be booed at Anfield… probably Phil.
Anyway, here’s how the lads rated…
Alisson: 7 – His goal was sporadically peppered despite Porto having a lot of action in the Liverpool third, yet was never truly threatened. Will be disappointed not to keep a clean sheet, but hey ho. He’s still quality.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7.5 – Terrific assist to set up Mohamed Salah’s goal which didn’t just put the tie to bed, it tucked it in with a cuppa tea too. Hasn’t half grown a-season-and-a-half on from being turned inside out by Wilf Zaha. Subbed for the returning Joe Gomez. That was nice.
Virgil van Dijk: 8.5 – Here at The Kopite we quite like Virgil van Dijk. In fact, we think he’s boss. He’s just the best isn’t he. Another accomplished performance at the back and yet another goal to show for it. Best defender in the world by some distance.
Joel Matip: 7 – Done alright replacing Joe Gomez, wonder if he felt his place under threat when he seen the Englishman come on though. The ungainly Moussa Marega got in a few times, but his shooting let him down badly. These days I’m disappointed whenever I don’t see him meander through the midfield with the ball at his feet like an overexcited spider.
Andy Robertson: 7 – Solid on the left hand side as usual, but he only really had to coast through the game after weathering a bit of a Porto storm in the first half. Subbed off for the skipper, probably to not tempt an injury and risk letting Alberto Moreno anywhere near the first team. Sheesh.
Gini Wijnaldum: 7 – As usual, kept the ball ticking over in the middle of the park but didn’t really have a great impact on the game – but he didn’t need to. Hopefully keeping himself fresh. Nice smile.
Fabinho: 7 – Runs the middle of the park but, like Wijnaldum, he didn’t need to really over-exert himself. Saving his legs for the final run in. Good lad.
James Milner: 7 – Again, wasn’t spectacular but functional. He’s just Mr Reliable isn’t he. If Milly was Prime Minister this whole Brexit lark would have been sorted years ago, but likely involving hard exit with a Ribena backstop.
Sadio Mané: 8.5 – In Liverpool’s first meaningful attack of the half, the Senegalese put the ball away into the net in what seemed like the most dulled goal I’ve ever seen. Expecting it to be called offside – and to be fair Mané looked to be too – the goal was eventually given after what seemed like an age for VAR to make a decision. Did his best Ronny Rosenthal impression by rounding the keeper but somehow managing to miss an open net, we’ll forgive him though. Man of the match for me.
Divock Origi: 6 – Didn’t really get much service up top in what was a pretty bland first half. Subbed at half time for Firmino. Hope it’s not an injury – he’ll be important for the run in.
Mohamed Salah: 8 – Well back in form and well amongst the goals – a superb finish against a savvy Iker Casillas who was left completely grounded by the Egyptian.
Roberto Firmino: 8 – Came on. Got a goal. Sim Senhor. He’s the best in the world, our Bobby Firmino you know.
Joe Gomez: 7 – Absolutely fantastic to see him back on the pitch after so long out.
Jordan Henderson: 8 – Think he’s the best attacking midfielder in the world you know. How are we only now seeing this? Feels like a caveman discovering fire. Created more chances in his 20 mins on the pitch than anyone else did in the full 90.