The Reds dominated the first leg of their last-16 tie against Porto as attack after attack swept away the Portuguese side.
Jürgen Klopp made 3 changes to the team that beat Southampton 2-0 at the weekend. Both Jordan Henderson and James Milner came into the midfield - to replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the suspended Emre Can - bringing some experience into the Liverpool side, and Dejan Lovren partnered up with Van Dijk at centre back in place of Joël Matip. As for the hosts, Porto were missing their main threat Vincent Aboubakar along with Danilo Pereira and Felipe.
Porto almost took the lead with a close chance after just 10 minutes, after they managed to find space in the box. A moment that sent an early warning to the visitors. However, Liverpool quickly retaliated as Roberto Firmino found Andrew Robertson just outside the box but the Scot sent the subsequent shot flying over the bar.
Liverpool soon found their characteristic momentum, moving the ball quickly and pressing high up the pitch. Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner, in particular, put in impressive performances in midfield. The Reds’ domination quickly came to fruition as Sadio Mané returned to the goals after a recent drought, giving Liverpool the opening goal in the 25th minute. A slice of luck and poor keeping from Porto’s Sá gifted Klopp’s side with the all important away goal.
Mohamed Salah has 30 goals for Liverpool this season.— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 14, 2018
It’s February. pic.twitter.com/dV7QhweHLu
It didn't take much longer for Mo Salah to add his name to the score sheet. In the 29th minute, with unbelievable composure and indescribable control, the 'Egyptian King' tricked and flicked the ball over Sá, juggled it in front of the goal, before cooly slotting it into the back of the net.
As a testament to his incredible consistency this season, this goal makes the Egyptian only the 13th player to score 30 in a season for the club.
The Dragões came close to retaliating just before half time with their most dangerous moment of the game. Yacine Brahimi played it in for Francisco Soares, yet the striker couldn't quite direct the ball, and it just went wide of Karius’ goal.
Liverpool went into halftime with a 2-0 lead, yet Sérgio Conceição had to know this didn't automatically guarantee Liverpool security as, unsurprisingly, his team came out and started the second half strongly.
However, this didn't last long. A brilliant breakaway from the Reds lead to Firmino back heeling the ball through the legs of a Porto player, yet his attempt on goal was saved, leaving Mané to pick it up and slot it in for his second of the game in the 52nd minute. The Merseyside team proved once again that their rapid counter attack renders them almost untouchable.
Game. Set. Match. In the 69th minute James Milner sent a sublime ball into the box for Firmino to receive and smash into the goal to secure Liverpool their 4th goal of the night.
The Brazilian rightfully made a song and dance of his goal as it meant that he has now scored 8 goals throughout the tournament and at least once against every opponent the Reds have faced.
From this point on it seemed the only option left for Porto was damage limitation as the hosts seemed incapable of answering the quality of Liverpool’s performance.
However, the Portuguese side didn't seem to have completely lost hope as they continued to try to make attempts at goal and nearly succeeded if it were not for Virgil Van Dijk.
The Dutchman made a last minute tackle to superbly block a shot and keep the score 4-0 in the 71st minute. The centre half's impressively calm and commanding performance helped maintain the Liverpool defence's composure throughout the game.
After 74 minutes, Porto made their last substitution as Liverpool made their first. Porto’s Soares made way for striker, Gonçalo Paciência, as Joël Matip came on for Liverpool to replace Jordan Henderson. Not long after, the visitors made a double substitution as Trent Alexander-Arnold was replaced by Joe Gomez and Roberto Firmino made way for Danny Ings to make his European debut.
Nothing could stop the Merseyside giants as they stormed on to score their 5th in the 84th minute. Mané hammered the ball past the keeper as he scored a well-deserved European hat trick and made Liverpool the top scorers in the Champions League. Sadio Mané has rediscovered his form and confidence. With a stellar performance the Senegalese was without a doubt the man of the match.
Sadio Mane's game by numbers vs. Porto:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 14, 2018
37 (79%) passes completed
3 tackles won
2 take-ons completed
1 chance created
The fourth Liverpool player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League pic.twitter.com/vUHGbV9puZ
Liverpool’s love affair with the Champions League continued as they oozed class and quality to serve Porto a Champions League masterclass and their heaviest defeat in their European history.
Jürgen Klopp will no doubt ensure his team’s focus is still turned to the second leg of the tie, yet, this dream result will surely see Liverpool coast into the quarter-finals after this emphatic win.