Rarely do you see a Champions League quarter-final look so routine.
There wasn’t the rip-roaring freneticism of an emphatic win, nor a compilation of keepy-ups from Mohamed Salah to be played back for the rest of time this time round as there was in Portugal last year, but Liverpool once again took control over their opponents on a relatively straight forward night at Anfield.
Rewarded with his second successive start in midfield, Naby Keita’s effort inside just five minutes made it two goals in as many games, setting Jurgen Klopp’s side on their way while threatening to turn the game into a rout much like last season.
James Milner and Sadio Mané were influential in the build up, before Roberto Firmino teed up Keita on the edge of the area. Albeit helped by a fortuitous deflection off Oliver Torres, it was little less than the former-Leipzig man deserved on a night where he flexed his potential. Delivering slicker passes while instigating the gegenpress to force Porto into mistakes, Keita appeared to build up a positive performance at St Mary’s on Friday night.
Alongside him, Jordan Henderson, a man who continues to divide opinion within the fanbase. Yet, this was another night where he delivered a defiant stance to his critics, thriving in a more advanced role reminiscent of the 2013/14 season. Providing an inch-perfect through-ball, the Englishman unlocked Porto’s defence, slotting Trent Alexander-Arnold in behind, whose drilled cross was easily turned home for Firmino. An 8th assist for Trent and a clear sign of how influential Henderson continues to be within the Liverpool camp. Fans may doubt him, but Klopp certainly doesn’t.
From there, Liverpool were expected to kick-on and kill the contest off, dominating possession and stifling anything Porto threw at them. Instead, the second-half produced a mundane yet professional performance – the mark of a team who knew tonight’s job had been accomplished.
Porto showed glimpses of what they’re capable of, and will no doubt be a different prospect from home, but they were singular moments rather than sustained periods of pressure. Jesus Corona would have three decent chances to bag an away goal that could’ve changed the complexion of the tie, but as it were, Klopp’s side will go to Portugal in control of their own destiny.
Another game, another strong win. The hope will now be that they can replicate it against Chelsea at the weekend.