Liverpool: Karius; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson, Can, Milner; Lallana, Mane, Firmino.
Porto: Casillas; Pereira, Felipe, Reyes, Dalot; Costa, Torres, Andre, Corona; Waris, Aboubakar
It’s not often Liverpool are involved in games that fail to get the pulses racing.
Scoring 28 goals in seven Champions League matches prior to kick-off, The Reds boasted an average of four goals per game, taking up the driver’s seat as the competitions main entertainers. Yet, with the business already done in the first-leg, Klopp’s side was given the opportunity to breeze into the quarter-finals with ease.
Porto were resigned to defeat having suffered a 5-0 mauling in the first-leg, with Liverpool able to rest key players ahead of a crunch tie against Manchester United at the weekend. Thus, this was never expected to be one of the standout games on Tuesday night. In that sense, the game dually delivered, with the home side seeing out the job at hand in comfortable fashion to mark their return to the quarter-finals for the first time in nine years.
It was effectively a training drill; Liverpool weren’t out to show their usual flurry of attacking intent, sitting back and recycling possession in one of the most unanimated performances Klopp will have ever been involved it. Sadio Mane had the first sight of goal, meeting Joe Gomez’s cross with an acrobatic effort. That was quickly followed up by the best chance of the match; James Milner’s lofted ball found the Senegalese international on the right-hand side of the box, only for his shot to cannon off the post. Maybe Liverpool were feeling merciful.
The second-half followed much the same pattern with minds clearly looking ahead to more testing encounters. Roberto Firmino was unable to equal the record for most goals scored by one player in a European campaign, coming off for Danny Ings. The former-Burnley man almost capped his night off with a goal, forcing Casillas into a fine close-range save after some bright play by Mohamed Salah in an otherwise uneventful ninety minutes at Anfield.
Salah’s introduction was arguably the biggest talking point of the night, coming on with 15 minutes left on the clock. The Egyptian has played more minutes than any other player at the club this season and with the hunt for second place very much still on, it was a needless risk for Liverpool to take with their prized asset. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately for United, he came through unscathed.
Still, there can be no qualms about the performance from Klopp’s side. This was not a night for relentless gegenpressing, nor was it ever going to provide an advert for the famous Champions League nights at Anfield. Liverpool had already won the contest prior to kick-off – the ninety minutes that followed was merely a formality.
The result sees Liverpool progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, where much more challenging games will await them.