By Scott Mason – @ScottMason00
Liverpool have advanced to the semi-final of the Champions League for the second year in a row after comfortably beating FC Porto 6-1 over two legs.
Liverpool had travelled to Portugal with a 2-0 lead after the first leg at Anfield, and it was key for Jurgen Klopp’s men that they avoided conceding early at the Estádio do Dragão – goal that could have given Porto the confidence to push on and potentially win the tie.
Porto’s early goal looked likely in the opening half hour of the game as Liverpool looked a shadow of their usual self. Porto enjoyed most of the ball in the first half, retaining 57% possession and taking 15 shots, compared to the four that the Reds mustered.
Away side were in desperate of a spark upfront and it was no surprise that the spark came in the form of serial goalscorers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané. The attacking pair provided a constant threat with their pace and ability to run at defenders even when Liverpool weren’t at their best in the first half.
The duo were involved in Liverpool’s first goal – also the Reds’ first real chance – when they linked up beautifully in the 26th minute. Salah, surrounded by five Porto players, cleverly found the run of the No.10 with a pass to the back post where the Senegalese slid in to direct the ball past Iker Casillas.
The forward’s goal was initially ruled offside but was later awarded after a lengthy VAR review which showed that Mané had timed his run perfectly to get onto the end of Mo’s pass. Sadio’s finish means he has now equalled Ian Rush’s 14 European goals – now, only Steven Gerrard has more goals on the continent (21) than him.
The Egyptian also got himself on the scoresheet as he scored Liverpool’s second in the 65th minute after running onto the end of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pass.
Mané later equalled his partner’s goal and assist when his header from James Milner’s corner found its way to Virgil van Dijk who netted the last goal of the game to make it 4-1.
The African duo have caused problems for many defenders over the past two years and this game was no different. Their respective performances prove why the two are a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s side – when Liverpool were struggling in the first half, they popped up and set up a goal out of nowhere which allowed the team to gain more control of the game.
They can create something from nothing, a skill that has proved vital throughout the whole season. Liverpool will now go on to play FC Barcelona in the penultimate round of this year’s competition, with the first leg to be played in the Nou Camp on May 1.