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James Milner the Midfield Destroyer

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The veteran midfielder may have just had his best game as a Liverpool player in a destructive outing against Porto.

FC Porto v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by fotopress/Getty Images

Rather lost in the excitement of Liverpool’s high-flying attacking trio putting five past a hapless FC Porto on Wednesday evening in the Champions League was midfielder James Milner, who put in what might have been his best performance in his two-and-a-half seasons as a Red.

The veteran, no longer a nailed-on starter, was dominant in an unexpected destroyer role in midfield, tackling and pressing Porto and driving through every 50:50 challenge as he added to his assist tally—a tally that now stands at a Champions League-topping seven helpers.

“It’s a tough place to come,” said Milner, the man who made Porto’s night on the ball tougher than anyone trying to downplay his own performance and insisting there was more that he and his teammates could have—and perhaps should have—done on a night they won 5-0.

“Porto are a very good side, and you could see the crowd, the way they were going even at the end. We wanted to keep a clean sheet and with the players we have we always would have the chance to score an away goal, [but] I thought we could have scored more.”

More than five? Against a side that had conceded just ten league goals and have lost just one home game this season, a 3-1 defeat in their first group stage match against Besiktas all the way back on September 13th. Even taking their weaker league into account, Porto were a tough opponent.

And Liverpool swept them aside with ease. In part thanks to the deadly attacking play of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah. But just as much thanks to the work of Milner in midfield, the 32-year-old proving he still has a key role to play this year—and maybe well beyond it.