Liverpool have one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals after defeating Portuguese side FC Porto 5-0 in the first leg of the round of 16 at the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday night.
Sadio Mane opened the scoring for Jurgen Klopp’s side 25 minutes in, which was then followed by the inevitable goal from Mohamed Salah four minutes later which took an incredible amount of composure.
Mane got another on the break shortly after the second half started to all but end the first leg, then Liverpool decided to rub salt into Porto’s wounds.
Roberto Firmino got a deserved goal 69 minutes in, and Mane completed his hat-trick with a rocket of a shot to complete the 5-0 rout.
This tie is all but over
Yes, Liverpool have had problems defensively for the majority of the season, but there is no coming back for Sergio Conceicao’s team. Porto were outplayed all night and the scoreline reflects that.
There is simply too much to do when Porto eventually do come to Anfield, so it basically is a dead rubber, which will please Klopp’s Liverpool.
The Reds will be able to approach that game as they feel. There will not be any real need to field the strongest starting XI come the second leg.
Can Liverpool win the Champions League this season?
The Champions League has been non-existent at Liverpool in recent seasons, but with it returning under Klopp there has been a real sense of excitement.
One always felt the Reds would return to being a good side under the German and that is exactly what has happened, and with that being the case this Liverpool side can go deep into the Champions League.
It is quite an open Champions League this time around in terms of who may win it, which works in Liverpool’s favour. There is a real x-factor and underdog feel to them, which the club has relished in this competition.
Sure, Liverpool will need luck along the way, but the way they play and especially the way they counter-attack, they should believe they can win this competition. The Anfield factor is massive.
Liverpool’s frontline stats:
Salah: 36 Apps, 30 Goals, 10 Assists
Firmino: 37 Apps, 21 Goals,11 Assists
Mane: 29 Apps, 12 Goals, 7 Assists
Unstoppable. 🍊 🍊🍊 pic.twitter.com/clo3bIyuZ5
— Sam (@VintageSalah) February 14, 2018
Even the best teams have frozen because of the atmosphere that can be produced on Merseyside. If you ask opposition sides what team they would like to avoid, it would be Liverpool.
Why? Because there is such an unpredictable nature to them.
Could it have been different for Porto?
If Porto’s goalkeeper, Jose Sa, had not have spilt his attempted save for the first goal of the night from the Reds, then who knows.
They were good for the first 20 minutes, but lost their way once Mane scored the opener.
You have to remember Porto almost took the lead if it was not for a Dejan Lovren touch, which saw the ball fly over the top of Liverpool’s goal rather than it hitting the back of the net.
It really is a game of margins.
Confidence boosting performance for Mane
It would be fair to say Mane has not been at his absolute best this season. He has not been poor, but not anywhere near the level he was at last season.
But his hat-trick today will give him a boost. His quality was on show for all three goals, and he reminded everyone why his quality is so important for Klopp’s side.