Liverpool verdict - Rampant Reds won't fear Barcelona as stunning double mission gathers pace
James Pearce delivers his match verdict from Porto after Liverpool win 4-1 and seal Barcelona showdown in Champions League semi-finals
23:28, 17 APR 2019Updated14:56, 22 APR 2019
On a night when talk of an historic quadruple was well and truly silenced, Liverpool's pursuit of a magnificent double gathered pace.
While there was bedlam and ultimately heartache at the Etihad, the Reds enjoyed serene progress into the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Pity poor FC Porto who felt the force of Jurgen Klopp's ruthless, rampant Liverpool once again.
The Portuguese champions were ripped to shreds on home turf by the Reds for the second successive season as they were routed 4-1 on the night and 6-1 on aggregate.
Having survived an early bombardment at the Estadio do Dragao, Liverpool showcased the array of firepower which has made them feared across the continent.
The breathtaking trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and substitute Roberto Firmino did the damage before Virgil van Dijk had the final word late on. Eder Militao's header was scant consolation for Porto who must be sick of the sight of the Reds.
The prize is huge. A mouthwatering tie with Barcelona now stands between Liverpool and a final showdown with either Ajax or Tottenham in Madrid on June 1.
A first trip to the Camp Nou since 2007 awaits and then the stage will be set for a spine-tingling European night under the lights at Anfield. These are the occasions Kopites live for.
There will be a reunion with former Reds duo Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho and the prospect of trying to contain the greatest player of his generation in Lionel Messi.
For Liverpool, there will be no sense of trepidation, no inferiority complex.
Last season's run to Kiev was a whirlwind as Klopp's men surpassed all expectations. But this time it's different. This time they aren't surprising anyone.
Liverpool know they belong among the cream of Europe. They have proved it time and time again.
The Reds have already won at one of Europe's footballing cathedrals this season having humbled Bayern Munich. Why can't they add Barca to the collection?
It's the perfect 10 now for Klopp in terms of two-legged ties as Liverpool manager in Europe. That's some record.
And at a time when rivals are feeling the strain, the Reds appear to be getting stronger and stronger. That's eight straight wins in all competitions as they chase both Premier League and Champions League glory.
This is a team functioning expertly in all departments. Defensively solid and packing a punch further forward. The perfect mix of youthful exuberance and wise old heads. And there's plenty in reserve on the bench.
There was the welcome sight of Joe Gomez making his comeback after four months out with a broken leg.
Klopp had sprung a surprise by giving Firmino a breather and handing Divock Origi his first European start for the Reds since the Europa League quarter-final with Borussia Dortmund three years ago.
The Reds boss also shuffled his pack in midfield as he opted for the fresh legs of James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum in place of Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson.
A pre-match downpour of biblical proportions left the turf sodden and Liverpool had to weather another storm early on.
'Let's Make History' read the huge banner behind the goal and roared on by a vociferous home support, Porto flew out of the blocks.
Klopp's men found themselves pinned back. The physical presence of Moussa Marega caused the Reds problems but just like at Anfield the Mali striker's finishing was horrendous.
There were howls of derision from the stands as Marega nodded wide from Jesus Corona's cross and then miscued a volley after being teed up by Alex Telles.
Klopp was irate on the touchline, throwing his arms in the air and demanding a greater show of composure.
To their credit, the Reds dug deep. Their wealth of European experience came to the fore. They defended bravely with Joel Matip, who was exceptional throughout, making a crucial block from Yacine Brahimi's strike.
The mood inside the Estadio do Dragao was transformed from hope to despair by Liverpool taking the lead with their first meaningful attack.
It was a slick move with Andy Robertson darting down the left and pulling the ball back to Salah. The Egyptian exchanged passes with Wijnaldum and then curled towards the far corner.
Mane anticipated it brilliantly and slid in to force the ball home from close range. The offside flag immediately shot up. It was a desperately tight call but VAR eventually overruled the decision.
Salah had his arms aloft celebrating long before Dutch referee Danny Makkelie signalled that the goal had been awarded – clearly having spotted a replay on a screen close to the touchline.
What a season Mane is having. That's 22 goals under his belt and, remarkably, 10 of his 14 Champions League goals for the club have come in the high-stakes settings of the knockout stages.
The opener was a body blow for Porto who suddenly found themselves needing to score four in order to progress. The sting had well and truly been taken out of proceedings.
Brahimi tested Alisson Becker but the Reds could have had a second just before half-time when Milner turned Trent Alexander-Arnold's cross narrowly wide.
Origi had struggled to make an impact and he didn't return for the second half with Firmino introduced to lead the line.
Porto didn't throw in the towel. Their fans pumped up the volume as substitute Francisco Soares nodded wide before Alisson clung on to Hector Herrera's strike.
But Liverpool defended bravely with Van Dijk and Matip in the right place at the right time to clear the danger.
As Porto threw caution to the wind, there was space to exploit on the counter and the Reds did exactly that to double their account on 65 minutes.
It started with Firmino winning the ball back deep inside Liverpool's half and ended with Alexander-Arnold's perfect pass being coolly tucked away by Salah.
For Alexander-Arnold, it was his last contribution with Gomez coming off the bench for his first appearance since he broke his leg in early December.
Having failed to score in over five-and-a-half hours of football against the Reds over the past two seasons, Porto finally broke their duck. Telles' corner was inviting and Militao powered a header past Alisson.
Liverpool's response was emphatic. The injection of class and energy provided by the introduction of Henderson helped ensure the Reds finished with a flourish.
Henderson's pin-point cross put the third on a plate for Firmino and then Van Dijk nodded home the fourth from Milner's corner.
This special team just keep on making the scintillating look almost routine.
Porto: Casillas, Militao, Pepe, Felipe, Telles, Otavio (Soares 45), Danilo, Herrera, Corona (Fernando 78), Marega, Brahimi (Costa 81).
Not used: Vana, Maxi Pereira, Torres, Andre Pereira.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Gomez 66), Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson (Henderson 71), Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner, Salah, Origi (Firmino 45), Mane.
Not used: Mignolet, Keita, Sturridge, Shaqiri.
Referee: Danny Makkelie
Goals: Mane 26, Salah 65, Militao 69, Firmino 77, Van Dijk 84
Bookings: Pepe, Mane.
Man of the match: Joel Matip. Excellent once again.
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