Yes, Porto FC was a relatively easy draw, but Liverpool’s first involvement in the Champions League knockout stages in nine years was always going to fray some nerves, no matter how straightforward it may have seemed on paper.
Thankfully, what could only be described as a clinic in gegenpressing, ruthlessness, counterattacking football and supreme conditioning ensued on the way to a 5-0 stroll in the park for Jürgen Klopp’s visiting side.
Although more than a few Reds performed excellently on the day—with both Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah both irrepressibly getting their customary marks on the scoring sheet—the game ball without a doubt went to Sadio Mané, who broke his five-match scoring drought in smashing three goals past the hapless Portuguese.
The hat trick hero was quick to commend the dominant performance by the midfield led by Jordan Henderson and solid back five marshalled by Virgil Van Dijk for their role in the emphatic result:
“I’m always pleased to play with these great players,” the winger told BT Sport after the game.
“Everybody talks about us three, but our teammates make it easier for us. Without the team we are nothing, they do a great job behind us. We’re lucky boys that we score all the time.”
The Primeira Liga frontrunners started brightly enough, pressuring the Liverpool defense when out of possession and winning a few quick corners for their hard work. However, things crumbled quickly for the hosts in the 25th minute once Mané, who now has six goals in five Champions League matches, capitalized on an awful mistake by goalkeeper Jose Sa to score and open the floodgates for what ended up being a 65-minute assault on Porto’s goal.
“Honestly, it was not an easy game, even though we scored five goals. The most important thing was to play as a team—and we did it.
“We played great football from the beginning until the end. We created so many chances and scored five, so it was deserved.”