Liverpool withstood an early flourish from Porto to eventually breeze into the Champions League semi-finals with a 4-1 victory and set up a glamour tie with Barcelona.
Sadio Mane’s 26th-minute goal took the air out of the buoyant hosts while Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk joined in the fun in the second half to add the gloss on a fine European performance. Eder Militao briefly made it 2-1, but in truth the contest was wrapped up once Mane struck.
Our Liverpool ratings are below …
Alisson Becker – Steely resolve as Porto threw everything they had at Liverpool – which wasn’t much laced with quality – but the Brazilian coped admirably and with minimum fuss. 7
Trent Alexander-Arnold – Sensational – some would say De Bruyne-esque – pass to tee up Salah. Certainly made up for generally wayward long balls from the back – 7
Virgil Van Dijk – Strange to see Van Dijk being roughed up a touch by Marega. However, was usually there with the clearance when needed and conjured up yet another goal. 7
Joel Matip – Didn’t have the most comfortable of evenings, but clung onto important territory as Porto struggled to infiltrate the box. 6
Andy Robertson – Not at his marauding best, but kept it conservative for a reason as Liverpool completed the job in Portugal. 6
Georginio Wijnaldum – Couldn’t get to grips with the returning Hector Herrera in the middle of the pitch – his lack of energy is a big reason Liverpool struggled at times. 4
Fabinho – Ineffective with the ball at his feet but on a night when the Reds were hardly at their fluent best, was a terrier at the heels of the Porto attack. 6
James Milner – It is easy to see why he remains a Klopp favourite, especially for a knockout UCL tie in an intimidating atmosphere. Not loads of inspiration, but lots of pluck. 6
Sadio Mane – Guilty of a horrible miss having rounded Iker Casillas – but don’t hold it against him. Scored, assisted and made a whopping six tackles in an all-action display. 8
Mo Salah – The Egyptian was clinical off few enough chances in a way that he hasn’t been for the entirety of the season. A match-winner up there with the best of them. 7
Divock Origi – Surprise call quickly altered at half-time as Klopp brought Firmino on. Not up to scratch. 4
Roberto Firmino (46′) – Tale of two halves for the Reds’ attack, and Firmino was the main storyline. Back together with Mane and Salah, he brought an air of serenity to proceedings, topped off with a fine header. 8
Jordan Henderson (70′) – Came off the bench here, but his cameo solidified Liverpool’s midfield and his sumptuous cross set up Firmino. Looks like a natural partner to Fabinho. 7
Joe Gomez – (65′) On for Alexander-Arnold but didn’t register a single tackle, interception or clearance despite being on the field for an ample amount of time. 5
Mightily impressive in the first half, the hosts were however guilty of frittering away a succession of gilt-edged goalmouth opportunities as they let a jittery Liverpool off the hook – with Moussa Marega particularly off key.
Jurgen Klopp’s men went ahead with their first meaningful attack, Sadio Mane sliding in to convert Mohamed Salah’s deft pass. Porto pushed on but in truth it was a long way back – they needed four goals.
They were eventually picked off in the second half – Salah, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk turning it into a rout, Real Madrid-bound Eder Militao heading in a consolatory goal – as Klopp’s side went through in eventually commanding fashion.
PORTO POSITIVE BUT PROFLIGATE
The only quarter-final tie that was a foregone conclusion, apparently. Yet Porto threatened to surge back into contention with a ferocious start that bamboozled the usually rock-solid Reds.
Totemic Van Dijk wobbled as he struggled to cope with the pace and power of Marega, while the returning Hector Herrera had Liverpool’s defence and midfield hanging on every stroke of his boot. The Mexican midfielder – who missed the first leg – was a menace, probing at and pulling the visiting defence uncomfortably all over the place.
If only they had stellar finishers in their ranks and not a journeyman striker in Marega who, although works hard, lacks an elite pair of scoring boots.
The Mali international – who was industrious yet insipid in the first leg – was again energetic and all-action here, but his finishing was also all over the place – his night summed up as he shanked one volley hopelessly wide.
He had five shots overall, but none of them threatened Alisson’s goal, while Yacine Brahimi fired three in anger, but not in accuracy.
Overall, Sergio Conceicao’s side attempted 19 shots to Liverpool’s 13 – and the Reds’ tally was only inflated late on when Porto faded with the result out of reach.
A TIMELY REMINDER
And Porto ultimately paid the price for their profligacy as Liverpool’s front three 2.0 continued to combine with devastating effect to take the tie out of the hosts’ reach.
Despite Porto’s purring start and commendable commitment to attack, Liverpool always knew they could afford to sit back and soak up pressure – knowing one goal would leave the home side requiring four.
And, after weathering a ferocious early storm in which Porto really should have scored at least once, Liverpool struck a decisive, clinical blow. In one of their few forays forward, Salah fashioned space in the box before flicking a deft floated ball into the path of Mane who slid home – albeit there was a lengthy wait while VAR came into play.
It was a timely reminder of the Egyptian’s alternate, yet equally intrinsic, value to Liverpool on the day he was named as one of six global icons featuring as a cover star on TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s most influential people.
Critics ignore Salah’s transformation into a more well-rounded player in Klopp’s improved, almost impervious, Liverpool this season – shouldering a more creative and defensive burden while also still jointly leading the Premier League goalscoring charts.
Trailing by one goal from the first leg, City needed to win this tie by two goals to ensure Spurs didn’t progress on away goals.
Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero were among the goal-scorers for City, with Kevin De Bruyne bagging a hat-trick of assists.
We take a deeper look at his performance.
Shots (on target): 3 (2)
Passes (success rate): 38 (84.2%)
Successful dribbles: 3
When it looked like things were going City’s way, it was De Bruyne who was constantly creating the threat through his needle-threading passes.
The Belgian did almost everything well; he was winning duels, completing dribbles with ease and even tested Hugo Lloris with a couple of promising hits.
He had earlier revealed how he enjoys a great partnership with Sterling off the pitch. Their chemistry on it deserves a shout too. De Bruyne assisted Sterling twice and was linking up beautifully with the Englishman.
De Bruyne’s eye for a pass is clearly one of his strongest suits and the best version of that was on display against Spurs. Picking the best of the Belgian’s three assists on the night is no easy task.
For his first, he set Sterling into space, allowing the Englishman to drift inwards and slot home. The fact that he did it with a lot of Spurs bodies around him made it all the more impressive.
To set up Sterling’s second and City’s third, De Bruyne delivered a perfect pass across the face of the goal, ahead of a bunch of Spurs and City players and right into the path of Sterling at the far post. The winger finished the move with a sublime touch past Lloris.
He finished the hat-trick of assists by setting up Aguero with a splendid run past three Spurs players.
The Belgian completed the night with four key passes, clearly outranking David Silva as the major source of creativity.
Compared to the absolute beast he was last season, De Bruyne has had a pretty tame season. In his defence, the Belgian was out with injury for a good part and had his performances took a dip.
But against Spurs, he showed exactly what he is capable of. The midfielder was arguably the best player for City, perhaps even the best player on the pitch, showing that he’s capable of performing on the biggest stage.
City failed to make it to the semi-final of the Champions League yet again, but they still have the FA Cup final and the Premier League title to play for. Performances like these in the league can help City achieve the domestic treble.
An in-form De Bruyne will be extremely crucial for Pep Guardiola’s men in the concluding stages of the season.