FC Porto vs Liverpool: 5 things we learned from the Reds' rousing Champions League victoryFC Porto vs Liverpool: 5 things we learned from the Reds' rousing Champions League victory
Liverpool took full control of their Champions League last-16 tie with a romping victory against Porto.
Goals from Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and a briliant hat-trick from Sadio Mane secured the visitors a fabulous first-leg result.
Liverpool can now turn their attention back to the Premier League with home games against West Ham and Newcastle next.
Porto, meanwhile, will return to Primeira Liga action next weekend with their Champions League hopes all but officially over.
Here are five things we learned:
AS IT HAPPENED: FC Porto vs Liverpool
AS IT HAPPENED: Real Madrid vs PSG
Thumping victory hands Liverpool breathing space - on both European and domestic stage
It may seem somewhat obvious that Liverpool are now in full control of this tie having scored five away goals and dominated from start to finish here in Porto.
But, this victory doesn’t only make their qualification to the quarter finals all but secure – it also provides them with the welcome opportunity to make the Premier League their sole focus, once again.
Liverpool travel to Manchester United four days after the second leg against Porto in what will prove to be a huge game in their pursuit of cementing a place in the top four.
And this result now gives Jurgen Klopp a much-welcomed dilemma.
Whether or not he chooses to play his normal starting XI for the second leg is not the point. The point is: he has the choice. Four goals to the good, Klopp can now rest his best plays for the second leg at Anfield and ensure his men are fresh and ready for the showdown at Old Trafford. This couldn’t have gone better for Liverpool.
Van Dijk is ready to become Liverpool’s defensive rock/can’t fix Liverpool on his own
A lot is being expected of Virgil van Dijk since his club-record £75m transfer from Southampton in January as Liverpool look to strengthen a leaky defence.
The centre-half had been linked with other leading clubs in England but after months of speculation, he opted for a move to the North-West.
He impressed during in his time in Glasgow, helping Celtic to two consecutive league titles and a Scottish League Cup triumph before securing his move to Premier League Southampton.
And the Dutchman starred in a couple of seasons in the south coast before securing his move to Liverpool.
His start in Liverpool was unspectacular, conceding three at home against West Brom but he has since settled and regained full match fitness.
Van Dijk made his Champions League debut for Liverpool tonight and helping them keep a well-deserved clean sheet with a well marshalled back-line.
Porto have reached their glass ceiling
Once former champions of Europe, Porto are no longer the force they once were. Humbled on their own turf by a stylish and slick Liverpool side, this was confirmation not only of their own fall from grace but the general gulf in quality between the likes of the Premier League/La Liga and Portugal’s Primeira Liga.
Porto were the only side from the league to reach the last 16 of the competition but, on the back of tonight’s performance, they won’t be progressing any further. That’s not to say they didn’t enjoy their fair share chances, with Otavio Edmilson da Silva Monteiro enjoying a looping deflected chance early on. Francisco Soares similarly came close, with his rifled shot whizzing inches past Karius’ right-hand side post. But this was as good as it got for the side. The Portuguese were helpless to the power and precision of Liverpool’s front-line, who looked like scoring every time they surged forward.
The glory days are well behind Porto. For the present at least, this was another reminder that the side are unlikely to smash through that glass ceiling anytime soon.
Karius is slowly gaining the trust of Klopp
It is no secret that Liverpool have suffered from goalkeeper trouble since Pepe Reina left the club in 2014.
Simon Mignolet was signed from Sunderland to be his replacement and he has flattered to deceive at times during his Liverpool career, sometimes producing moments of goalkeeping brilliance, and yet also having the propensity to commit error after error.
Klopp chose to sign Loris Karius in the summer of 2016 to offer a challenge to Mignolet’s stranglehold on the No 1 jersey, but the German has also had his ups and downs during his Liverpool tenure.
Until recently, neither stopper has been able to lock down a starting berth but Karius has started the last four games for Liverpool.
And Karius showed that Klopp’s faith in him was not misplaced with a composed performance in Portugal. He wasn’t challenged regularly but proved reliable whenever called upon.
They will be hoping his upturn in form continues in Merseyside.
Liverpool's front three can be world beaters
Liverpool’s attacking has been a joy to watch at times this year as Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have linked up to devastating effect on countless occasions.
The Egyptian has been the pick of the creative threesome this season having signed from Roma in the summer, scoring 22 goals and assisting a further seven times in his 26 Premier League appearances.
And Salah was at it again tonight as he took his overall goal-scoring tally for the season to 30 with his composed finish against Porto. It was a moment of genuine world-class ability. Under pressure from Porto's goalkeeper, the Egyptian brought James Milners' deflected shot under control from six yards out, took it around his opponent, and calmly hit home Liverpool's second of the evening.
It was his cutting pass, too, which opened up the Porto defence to put Firmino through on goal. The Brazilian was unable to find the goal but Mane cooly followed it up for his second of the night, before bagging his hat-trick with a sublime rocket of a shot. All three were on point and, in this form, there are very few sides who'd be capable of keeping Liverpool out.
Some doubters will point out that Porto are no longer one of Europe’s finest sides and until Liverpool play against PSG, Barcelona or Bayern Munich, they can’t be world beaters.
And while the front three’s blitzing of Porto does not mean that Liverpool are going to go on and win the Champions League, it does suggest Liverpool have a bright future.