Liverpool put one foot in the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Porto.
Despite Porto starting well, Liverpool took the lead after just five minutes as Naby Keita’s shot was deflected past Iker Casillas.
Roberto Firmino then doubled the lead midway through the first half, tapping in from close range following a good cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
And that would be all Liverpool required for the victory, taking control of the tie ahead of next week’s second leg.
So, who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Roberto Firmino
The beauty of Liverpool’s playing style under Jurgen Klopp is that Roberto Firmino doesn’t need to be the out-an-out striker most teams require.
Instead, the Brazilian is able to influence Liverpool matches from a deeper role, sometimes playing as a midfielder when it suits him and the Reds. But at the same time, Firmino does not sacrifice his own chances of scoring, and he still pops up with important goals.
Make that 21. 😳 https://t.co/QcUPDcyNpo
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 9, 2019
Tuesday’s win over Porto was another prime example of this, as the Brazilian scored one and recorded one assist to put Liverpool in firm control of their Champions League quarter-final.
It started with an assist, as Firmino was quick to see space inside the Porto box with Sadio Mane on the ball. While some strikers may have looked to get themselves into a goalscoring position, Firmino moved closer to his team-mate and away from goal – with no Porto defenders following him. This allowed the Brazilian to find Keita on the edge of the area to put Liverpool ahead.
And even when Firmino grabbed a goal for himself, the Brazilian actually started the move in midfield. Picking the ball up from Keita midway through the Porto half, Firmino passed to Jordan Henderson and kept his run going into the box to finish Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
The goal and assist means that Firmino has now been involved in 21 Champions League goals since the start of last season. Only Cristiano Ronaldo (24) has been directly involved in more during that time.
Loser: Moussa Marega
While most non-Porto fans would have expected Liverpool to have a relatively easy route to the Champions League finals, the Reds needed to be wary of Moussa Marega.
The Malian international has been in devastating goalscoring form in the Champions League this season, scoring six goals in seven appearances so far. Only Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski have managed more in the current Champions League campaign, both bagging eight.
Going into the game against Liverpool, Marega was also looking to become just the fourth different player in Champions League history to score in seven successive matches, joining Edinson Cavani, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But, despite looking sharp at Anfield, it wasn’t to be with the Malian surprisingly wasteful with his opportunities. Twice in two first-half minutes, Marega missed big goalscoring chances, but both times his efforts were saved by Alisson when he perhaps could have done better. And another two good chances were missed in the second half, when an away goal could have set up a nervy second leg.
Winner: Naby Keita
It would not be unfair to say Naby Keita has not had the best first season at Anfield, but things are starting to look brighter.
The Guinean actually started the season fairly well, and looked ready to slot straight into the Liverpool midfield, but his performances soon dropped. Soon, there were talks of Keita being regarded as a potential transfer flop given all the promise which came with his £48m arrival last summer. Some Liverpool fans even went as far as dubbing the midfielder a waste of money.
Naby Keita won eight tackles tonight against Porto; the most by any player in a #UCL knockout match this season.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 9, 2019
Keita was struggling to get into a Liverpool midfield which, in itself, was the least impressive part of Jurgen Klopp’s trophy-challenging team.
But this past week, Keita seems to have found the belief in himself which appeared to be missing, and looks similar to the player that turned heads while at RB Leipzig.
He started to get through the midfield with his driving runs and opened his Liverpool account in last week’s win over Southampton – his 27th appearance.
And he would not have to wait much longer for his second Liverpool goal, opening the scoring against Porto on Tuesday night. It wasn’t the most difficult of goals but Keita found himself in space on the edge of the box and calmly finished despite pressure being put on him.
The Guinean was fortunate to see his effort beat Iker Casillas as it took a big deflection off Oliver Torres, but the initial shot was on target and Keita got the reward.
But it wasn’t just the goal, Keita’s all-round game was excellent, with the midfielder winning eight tackles – more than any other player in a single Champions League knockout game this season.
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Loser: Alberto Moreno
There’s no denying Alberto Moreno has not had the best time at Liverpool, and the Spaniard will likely find himself looking for a new club this summer. But the left-back must have fancied himself in with a chance of starting on Tuesday.
Liverpool’s first-choice left-back Andy Robertson was suspended for the visit of Porto having picked up a needless late yellow card in the dying seconds of their last-16 win over Bayern Munich.
While James Milner has often been the back-up option at full-back when there is no other alternative, with the Englishman previously performing well in midfield, and Liverpool’s tight fixture list coming up, there could have been an argument for Moreno to start.
But Milner did start, with Moreno nowhere to be seen in the matchday squad, surely all-but confirming the end of his Liverpool career. The fit-again Joe Gomez was Liverpool’s only recognised full-back option on the bench.
And although Porto did have their chances, Milner looked fairly untroubled throughout the game, adding to arguments that Moreno could have done a job himself, resting up key players ahead of Liverpool’s game against Chelsea on Sunday – their biggest remaining test to their Premier League title hopes.
Winner: Jordan Henderson
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has received a lot of criticism over the years for his safe style of play at the club, barely seen to move the ball forward and contributing to attack. This has been aided by Liverpool’s midfield struggles with a lack of creativity coming from Klopp’s triangle in the middle of the pitch.
But over the past few weeks, Henderson has started to show the abilities he displayed at Sunderland which initially persuaded Liverpool to make the move for him in 2011, including a goal against Southampton last week.
And the moves were on display again on Tuesday night with Henderson showing his passing range to control the game for Liverpool, proving a good outlet from deep to create.
The Englishman will not get any official credit in Liverpool’s second goal, with Alexander-Arnold providing the assist for Firmino, but Henderson’s role should not be forgotten.
Receiving the pass from Firmino, Henderson played an inch-perfect through ball for Alexander-Arnold to run onto, threading the ball between Alex Telles and Moussa Marega.
Loser: Iker Casillas
The Spaniard would not have had high hopes of winning a fourth Champions League when Porto were drawn against Liverpool for the quarter-finals, but any minor dreams have surely been extinguished.
Casillas received a standing ovation on his previous visit to Anfield, keeping a clean sheet in a goalless draw in last season’s round-of-16 draw. But there would be no such occasion on Tuesday night as his Porto side were routinely beaten.
Despite keeping a clean sheet in two of his three matches at Anfield, Casillas lasted just five minutes before conceding – with the Spaniard wrong-footed by a deflection.
A second came midway through the first half, for the sixth goal Casillas has conceded at Anfield – previously letting in four in a heavy defeat while at Real Madrid in 2009.
And with Porto losing 2-0, next week’s second leg may just be Casillas’ final Champions League appearance with the Spaniard turning 38 in May.