Liverpool on a cruise for Barcelona date in UEFA semi-final
Liverpool set up a mouthwatering Champions League semi-final against Barcelona on Wednesday after their superstar front three all scored in a 4-1 win away at FC Porto that saw them cruise into the last four 6-1 on aggregate.
On a wet night at the Estadio do Dragao, Liverpool had to weather an early storm before scoring from their first attempt just before the half-hour mark, Sadio Mane prodding home for a goal given after a lengthy VAR review.
Already in control of the tie after a 2-0 win at Anfield in the first leg last week, Liverpool had effectively killed off Porto there and then, but Mohamed Salah, substitute Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk added further goals after the break.
Eder Militao scored a consolation for the hosts 21 minutes before the end, but this was another miserable night for them after they lost 5-0 to the same opponents on this ground a year ago.
Liverpool now march on to a clash with Lionel Messi’s Barca, the first meeting of the clubs since a last-16 encounter in 2006/07 that Liverpool won on away goals.
The dream of a Champions League and Premier League double remains alive for Liverpool and their supporters, whose spirits were not dampened by the dreary weather by the banks of the River Douro.
This was their 17th game without defeat and their eighth straight victory, although Barcelona will offer a far tougher test than that provided by Porto.
The first leg of that tie is in a fortnight, and in the meantime Liverpool will revert their focus to domestic matters, with games against Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town up next.
With the matches coming thick and fast, Klopp made three changes to his team here following Sunday’s 2-0 win over Chelsea. Firmino and Naby Keita, who both scored in the first leg, dropped out along with Jordan Henderson.
They were replaced by Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner and Divock Origi, with the latter making his first Champions League start for the club. However, the Belgian only played the first half before making way for Firmino.
Indeed, he had hardly touched the ball during a Porto onslaught in the opening stages, sparked by a Jesus Corona shot just over the bar in the first minute.
They had 13 attempts on goal in the first 25 minutes, but would regret not scoring while on top.
When the away side finally made it into the box at the other end, Salah — his every touch jeered by the Porto support who felt he should have been sent off in the first leg — rolled the ball into the six-yard area for Mane to get his 22nd goal of the campaign.
While the offside flag came up, the longer Dutch referee Danny Makkelie spent conferring with his video assistants the more obvious it became that the goal would stand.
Porto knew their chance was gone, with their fans cursing Mane again — he had scored a hat-trick in Liverpool’s big win here in the last-16 tie last season.
The match opened up after the interval, with Trent Alexander-Arnold releasing Salah to run through and beat Iker Casillas on 65 minutes.
Porto got their consolation shortly after when Militao — who will join Real Madrid next season — rose to head in from an Alex Telles corner, finally giving their support something to cheer.
They will be glad to see the back of Liverpool, however.
Mane missed the target after rounding Casillas, but Henderson set up fellow substitute Firmino to head in the visitors’ third on 77 minutes and Van Dijk nodded in from a corner to round out the scoring.