Liverpool fire warning shot to rest of Europe with Porto thrashing

Max Cooper
The boys are back
The boys are back / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

When Real Madrid president Florentino Perez took a crack at dismantling European football and building his own plaything, the very out-of-touch owner aired his own grievances with the Champions League platform.

“There are Champions League games in the groups that nobody watches, the truth is even I struggle to watch them."

Well, those words certainly came back to haunt him on Tuesday night, as Moldovan minnows FC Sheriff rocked up to Santiago Bernabeu and beat Los Blancos in their own back yard. I wonder if he was watching that one.

The truth is there are some group stage matches which do fly under the radar, and it's only when the tournament is done and dusted that we look back and say, 'that was a much more significant 90 minutes of football than we'd realised'.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and its importance is often overstated when we know which team will go on to win the big European trophy. At this stage, it's harder to tell which of these games is one to remember further down the line, but we should definitely not ignore Liverpool's incredible start to the new Champions League season.

The Reds kicked off their campaign with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Milan, overturning a half-time deficit to clinch three points against a side desperate to impress on their long-awaited return to the top table.

Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson
Captain to the rescue / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It was an impressive display of resilience from Jurgen Klopp's men, setting them up nicely for their trip to Portugal to take on Porto. What we witnessed on Tuesday night was an exhibition in the art of ruthlessly bulldozing an opposition into oblivion, as Liverpool romped to a 5-1 victory over their hosts.

Porto are no mugs. This is the team that knocked Juventus out of the Champions League last year, finished second in their domestic league and boast some seriously exciting attacking talent in the shape of Mehdi Taremi and Luis Diaz.

But they weren't even given a sniff by Liverpool, who returned to the free-scoring and clinical ways of old, with familiar faces stepping up and delivering for the Merseysiders. The Reds needed only 18 minutes to break the deadlock, and when they did, it was that man Mohamed Salah front and centre.

The Egyptian king has consistently delivered his best football since arriving in England, and he's showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, he's arguably getting better. Alongside him, Roberto Firmino found himself back on the scoresheet - much to the delight of his fans.

The Brazilian is the least prolific of the forward line and is often the least appreciated of the three. He added to his only goal of the season against Norwich City with a brace, needing a bit of luck to get him off the mark.

Diogo Costa's horrendous decision making gave Firmino a free hit towards an open goal, and despite the young goalkeeper's best efforts in chasing the ball back to the line, his shot trickled in to bring a luminous smile to the forward's face.

A return to form for Firmino could send Liverpool to even greater heights as they look much more like the team which won the Champions League and Premier League in the space of two seasons rather than the chaotic rabble which fell off a cliff last year.

Klopp will be pleased with the defensive display that leaked only one goal after shipping three to newly-promoted Brentford at the weekend. Those shambolic scenes at the back sparked anger from fans, but that mad 90 minutes is very much the exception and not the rule this season.

Jurgen Klopp
Job done / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The whole team has clicked back into gear. The starting lineup is beginning to take shape, the odd new arrivals are bedding in nicely and squad players such as Curtis Jones and Divock Origi are turning in solid performances when given the chance.

Liverpool are back at the top of their game this season, and despite 'losing the transfer market,' they are most definitely 'winning football matches'. The Merseyside club has a special relationship with European football, and even when they're far from their best, they remain a dark horse to win the competition.

Now approaching their best, it could be time to accept that last year's mid-season misery was just a blip in the team's fortunes, and they should return to being among the absolute favourites to win the Champions League this time round.