A largely uneventful scoreless draw with FC Porto sees the Reds through 5-0 on aggregate…
Liverpool are into the last eight of the Champions League for the first time in nine years after easily seeing-off any slim hopes FC Porto had of mounting an unlikely comeback in their last-16 second leg tie at Anfield on Tuesday night.
With the first leg in Portugal finishing 5-0 in the Reds’ favour there was always a danger that the return might be a bit of a damp squib and, despite the hosts fielding a strong line-up in front of a virtually full Anfield, so it was to prove for long spells.
The visitors, and their vocal travelling support, did their best to ensure that wasn’t the case by making a bright start in which they caused Liverpool’s backline some genuine moments of concern, primarily through powerful frontman Vincent Aboubakar.
Urged on by a surprisingly animated Jürgen Klopp, the Reds began to increase their tempo and intent as the opening half approached the midway point; a contorted Sadio Mané not far away from diverting a Joe Gomez cross home.
The Senegalese speedster, who scored at hat-trick at the Estadio do Dragão, went even closer to breaking the deadlock on the half hour mark when a post denied him what would have been an excellent goal following a fine James Milner pass.
Dejan Lovren headed onto the roof of the net soon after but that was pretty much it in terms of goalmouth action during a subdued opening 45 minutes.
Things improved after the break with Milner appearing to slip whilst sending a presentable opportunity wide and, at the other end, Majeed Waris forcing Loris Karius into a decent diving stop.
An improvised block by a prolapsed Felipe then thwarted Roberto Firmino after the Brazilian had latched onto an exquisite Jordan Henderson through-ball.
Firmino’s replacement Danny Ings finally registered a shot on target for the hosts in the 67th minute but his tame header went straight at iconic Spanish keeper Iker Casillas.
The same outcome befell a deflected Alberto Moreno shot and a Milner header as the men in red, now with leading scorer Mohamed Salah on the pitch and looking threatening, stepped up their attempts to win a third home fixture in 11 days.
Porto also chose to be positive in the closing stages as a Sérgio Oliveira shot from distance looped narrowly over and an outstretched Lovren boot denied Óliver Torres what looked a certain goal.
A brilliant late fingertip save by Casillas ensured honours remained even at full-time as Ings went agonisingly close to scoring his first senior goal for Liverpool since October 2015.
The result means the Merseysiders have finally failed to score at home this season but that shouldn’t detract from the club’s fantastic progress and prior performances in the competition.
For Porto it was a successful face-saving exercise after their first leg horror show, although the Portuguese side did miss an excellent opportunity to record their first win on English soil at the 18th attempt.
Providing his thoughts on the encounter at a post-match press conference, Klopp remarked: “If you draw in the first game, the away game in the knockout stage, then you win at home it feels maybe different than tonight, but the maximum you can reach and achieve is the next round and we did that in quite a comfortable way.
“I don’t think it could have been expected [before the tie], so I am really happy about it tonight. It was a big challenge for us, to be honest, in the preparation, it was different to other games, of course. I think the boys did really well – we showed a fantastic attitude, a few pieces of really nice football and we defended very serious.
“Now we are in the next round… the last eight is cool. We’re a little bit satisfied and it’s already good. I think it was time we showed up again. Good development in Liverpool in the moment, it’s a nice moment, but if you don’t show up in a competition like the Champions League then nobody really will realise it.
“I’m happy for all the people involved that we have made that step. So it’s done, it’s good, now let’s carry on.”
The draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League will be made at 11am GMT on Friday, March 16, at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Before then Liverpool have the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime as they look to overtake Manchester United in the Premier League standings.
So that’s what both we and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below…
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