Jurgen Klopp declared Liverpool have made a “big statement” by reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League for the second year in a row.
Three goals in the final half an hour saw Liverpool triumph 4-1 in Porto to seal a 6-1 aggregate win in their quarter-final and set up a last-four meeting with Barcelona.
“For us to be in the semi-finals is unbelievable really, the second time in a row in the semi-finals is something really crazy,” Klopp said.
Barcelona and Lionel Messi now await, and Klopp could not hide his grin as he looked forward to pitting his wits against the Catalan giants – even if he must first focus on Sunday’s Premier League game against Cardiff as Liverpool continue to push on two fronts.
“Now we are in the semi-final against Barcelona, I’m really happy that we play them,” he said.
“We will find things that we think we can use against them, but I’m not worrying about that tonight.
“Tonight we are in the semi-final but on Sunday we are playing Cardiff. That’s in my mind and will be on my mind 100 per cent when I wake up.
“I’m looking forward to it but not tonight. The news that there’s a proper football game between Liverpool and Barcelona is really good news and I’m happy for all the people in the football club.
“To be in the semi-final is a big statement. I’m really proud of the boys and what they did.”
Porto played on the front foot for most of the night but struggled to turn chances into goals, and the tie was effectively over when Sadio Mane prodded home Liverpool’s first chance of the night in the 28th minute.
Mohamed Salah doubled the lead in the 65th minute and though Eder Militao headed in for the hosts, further goals from Roberto Firminho and Virgil Van Dijk made for a comfortable Liverpool win.
“We had to defend in the first half a lot, but OK, that’s no problem, that’s something that we have to do,” Klopp said.
“The big difference is that it doesn’t cost us confidence. We are under pressure but no problem because we know we will get chances and when we did we scored them.”
Klopp admitted the final scoreline flattered his team, even if they rarely looked like having a problem on the night.
“It’s not a result that reflects the two games,” he said. “At Anfield we were the clear better side, we dominated the game and played a really good game and made life difficult for Porto.
“Tonight it was the other way around, they made our life difficult.”
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Mauricio Pochettino says his side are capable of winning the Champions League after they booked a semi-final spot for the first time in their history with a dramatic away goals victory at Manchester City.
Spurs lost an amazing quarter-final second leg 4-3 on the night, but ended City’s quadruple dream courtesy of Fernando Llorente’s 73rd-minute goal which made it 4-4 on aggregate.
That does not begin to tell even half of the story on a dramatic night at the Etihad Stadium – one which began with five goals inside the opening 21 minutes, creating Champions League history and ended with a double helping of VAR action as Spurs somehow made it through.
After referee Cuneyt Cakir allowed Llorente’s goal to stand following a lengthy video review, where the ball appeared to brush his arm before hitting his hip and going in, the real theatre came in stoppage time as City thought they had won it when Raheem Sterling fired home from close range to spark scenes reminiscent of that magical Sergio Aguero moment of 2012.
But another VAR check ruled Aguero offside and all of a sudden the Etihad felt silent as Spurs’ players, who were previously crestfallen on the floor, were now punching the air as they made history.
Ajax, who have dumped Real Madrid and Juventus out in the last two rounds, await in the semi-final giving Spurs an undeniable shot at reaching the final.
“I think today we show and last week against Manchester City that all is possible in football,” said Pochettino, whose reputation will only be further enhanced after this win.
“That is the most important thing. Sport always gives you the possibility to beat teams that no one believes or thinks we are capable of. Why?
“football is not only about talent but belief and to have the right mentality. This team has the personality, character and mentality to believe all is possible.
“With the quality, we can have this type of performance and achieve these big things. If not, it’s impossible.
“With only quality, it’s possible to achieve a semi-final in the Champions League.”
After Son Heung-min’s double either side of Sterling and Bernado Silva goals inside the opening 11 minutes, there was a sense that this was going to be a memorable night.
And after Sterling’s second and Aguero’s effort City were ahead in the tie for the first time midway through the second half and were heading through until the late drama.
Pochettino, whose side had one point at the halfway stage of the group stage of the competition, called his side “heroes”.
“The most important now is we are in the semi-final and we deserve to be in the semi-final,” Pochettino added.
“My players are heroes. I told you before the game, whatever happens, I am going to feel proud.
“To qualify for the semi-final and making history I am more than happy I am more than proud for them.
“It is unbelievable to be in Champions League in the quarter-final and beat Man City because in both legs it was very competitive and both legs were even.
“To score three goals here was not easy. In a game that is like a final, it is difficult to see Manchester City concede the goals they conceded today.
“One of the most important times in my career like a manager, of course, one of the best. To be in the semi-final was a dream before and now we are there.”
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Manchester United must conduct “clever business” in the summer following their humbling exit in the Champions League.
Solskjaer admitted in the immediate aftermath of their 3-0 defeat in Barcelona, which sealed a 4-0 quarter-final win on aggregate for the Catalan giants, that he faces a major rebuilding job to re-establish United among the European elite.
In a previous era United were able to attract the world’s best talents but, despite their track record of spending big in recent years, that may no longer be the case.
They have a battle on their hands to finish in the Premier League’s top four but Solskjaer is already envisioning a scenario in the future where United are on an equal footing with their conquerors on Tuesday night.
“Yeah, that is the level we have to aspire to because that’s the level we have been,” Solskjaer told MUTV.
“We want to get there and we have to get there by hard work and attitude every single day, and of course some clever business we have to do and just keep on going.”
United made an enterprising start at the Nou Camp, with Marcus Rashford clipping the crossbar moments after kick-off, but were undone by Lionel Messi’s first-half double and Philippe Coutinho’s wonder strike after half-time.
Solskjaer and his troops have no time to dwell on the defeat with three pivotal clashes in the space of eight days coming up, starting with a trip to Everton on Sunday.
The Manchester derby at Old Trafford is then followed by Chelsea’s visit in a run of fixtures that could go a long way towards defining United’s campaign.
Solskjaer is seeking to finish the season with a flourish but added of the Barca setback: “We gambled and you can say that we gambled and lost but we had to go for the first goal.
“We had to be brave, we created two or three chances but unfortunately we just didn’t have that quality to finish them off.
“If we had got the first goal then it might have been different but when they score two goals in four minutes it’s just game over.
“To be fair to the boys, their attitude was good, they kept going.
“You have to lift them (the players). It’s a big week and we have to get ready for that week because (they are) three big games.
“We have five days until Everton, so we have got plenty of time to get ready and we will be ready.”
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