Much like Maribor before them, Porto traveled to Anfield after a devastating home defeat with a strategy that I believe is called, “Please, not in the face!” Unlike Maribor, who still left England with a sizeable (albeit more respectable) defeat, Porto managed to walk away with a draw.
Most Liverpool fans (especially those in attendance!) would have preferred more of the free-flowing style of football to which we have been accustomed to/spoiled by this season. But a 5-0 aggregate win, and a ticket to the Champions League quarterfinals is nothing to sniff at. And there are still lessons to be learned from the performance.
- Liverpool’s players are human after all: It’s easy to forget when the Reds are hanging 5’s and 7’s on opponents in the Champions League, but it’s really hard to get up for a tie that is already decided. Still, this is a match that Liverpool should have won, outplaying the Portuguese visitors 1.6 to 0.6 in expected goals. The finishing wasn’t there on the night, which could be easily blamed by a lack of concentration, and the fact that Mohamed Salah only played a limited, cameo role, and didn’t get to play with either Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane.
- Adam Lallana is no Mo Salah: Duh. But stay with me! The most exciting 15 minutes of the night were when Salah came on, and not just for his skill and ability to stretch the game (but, well, also for that). He managed to lift the Reds and the Anfield faithful, and for the first time that night, I believed we were going to break the deadlock. We didn’t, but that belief is important, especially going forward. Although we should have had enough firepower with Mane and Firmino, when those three play together this team steps up to another level, which we were just not privy to last night. That there is such a drop off from Mo to Lallana on the wing is something we surely need to rectify this summer.
- Alberto Moreno is no Andy Robertson: This one hurts to write a bit. And perhaps it’s unfair, since Albi has been out for so long, but there was a noticeable drop off on both sides of the ball from our leftback last night. Since coming in, Robertson has stepped up and made that position his. I like Moreno, and the fact that he fought his way back into the XI after being bombed out last year says a lot about his character. But if he wants first team football, he’s likely going to have to find it elsewhere for the foreseeable future.
It wasn’t a great performance, but hopefully Liverpool will be rested and ready for a big Northwest Derby, one that very well could prove decisive for the final league position for these two rivals. And beyond that, we are back in the final 8 of the European Cup, anxiously awaiting our next
victims opponents, who will be drawn on March 16th.