Player ratings: Liverpool 2-0 Porto

Firmino-and-Keita-celebrate
Job done for the first leg then, against a plucky Porto side and a big improvement in performance levels from recent weeks. Let’s see how the lads got on individually.

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Alisson (6.5) - Made a good save in the first half and wasn’t quite as dodgy as usual when passing out from the back, although he did have his moments. Almost got Van Dijk into trouble by charging out unnecessarily, forcing Virgil to kick it out for a throw when he had been in complete control of the situation had Alisson just stayed in his goal. Overall though, a decent performance.

TAA (7) - Another fairly mixed bag from Trent. A constant outlet on the right, attacked well and bagged himself a good assist, with a brilliant run and cross for Firmino’s goal. Once again however, all the opposition attacks came down our right flank and with some success, especially in the first half. Needs to work on the defensive side of his game, along with his decision making at times. That can be forgiven however, as it’s easy to forget Trent is still in the formative years of his career.

Lovren (6.5) - A reasonably quiet night for Dejan on his return from injury. Didn’t have loads to do but what he did have to do, he dealt with fairly comfortably. Made one particularly good, crunching tackle on Marega but overall, I wasn’t aware of Lovren on too many occasions throughout the match and given his past tendencies to do something mental, I view that as a good thing.

Van Dijk (8) - Another imperious display from our colossal centre back. A couple of sticky moments aside, he won all his personal duels as usual and some of his long passing from deep is simply superb. Played a couple of sumptuous long diagonals out to Trent on the right hand side and once again, delivered his usual brand of effortless quality. Best CB in the world by a distance in my opinion.

Milner (7) - Once again, Milner displayed his versatility and value to this squad by effortlessly slotting in at left back for the suspended Robertson. Solid and steady as always, did well defensively and joined in the attacks. One of Europe’s most consistent and underrated players.

Fabinho (7) - Did the defensive side of things very well as he broke up Porto’s play time and again, winning back possession and disrupting their attacks. Was very sloppy in possession at times though I thought, especially in the opening 20 minutes. Southampton game aside however, he brings a real physical presence and solidity to our midfield. Excellent ball winner.

Henderson (9) - The skipper’s fine form continued with a superb display, the like we’ve not seen from him since 13/14. He was leading the press from the start of the game and showed a superb passing range throughout, including a lovely through ball to find Trent in the build up to the first goal. If Henderson could consistently produce performances like this, he wouldn’t have any detractors and would be one of everyone’s first names on the team sheet. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in a more advanced role between now and the end of the season.

Keita (7.5) - Vast improvement from Naby who scored in consecutive games for the first time in his Anfield career and generally looked a threat throughout. Some nice passing and dribbling displayed and even did his share of pressing and tracking back. Decision making is still questionable at times - when to attempt the dribbles and Hollywood passes and when to just keep it simple, as he does still have the tendency to run down blind alleys. All in though, a dramatically improved display and one of his best to date.

Salah (7) - Looked a threat throughout as he caused Porto plenty of problems. Brilliantly turned his man on a couple of occasions and got in some good positions. Lost possession countless times however, by holding on to the ball too long and sometimes his passing really is dreadful. Better from him though. We need a strong finish to the season from Salah.

Firmino (8.5) - Superb display from Bobby as he added a goal and an assist to his tally for the season. Apart from that though, showed some lovely footwork and link up play throughout, as well as his usual tireless work rate. Unlucky to narrowly miss out on man of the match.

Mane (6.5) - Struggled to impose himself on the game, although he did have the ball in the net, only for the goal to be narrowly ruled out for offside. Not his usual dynamic self however but we’ll put that down to missing his usual flying Scotsman LB partner.

Subs:

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Origi (6) - Kept up his mini revival and made sure there was no let up for the Porto defence as he brought his usual brand of pace, power and direct running. May yet prove to be a valuable squad player.

Sturridge (N/A) - The only thing I can remember him doing was bottling a 50/50 challenge. Understandable however, given the fact he’s made of crisps and is bound to be looking for a new club in the summer.

Klopp-watch (9) - Difficult to criticise Jurgen for anything here. Team selection and tactics were spot on as we put one foot in a European semi final for the third time in as many years.

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Summary:

So, we take a two goal lead to Portugal for the second leg. Porto need to score at least twice to take the game to extra time, so they’ll need to commit plenty men forward and given how devastating we are on the counter attack, I’d be very surprised if we don’t manage at least one goal over there, which would kill the tie. I’m reluctant to go as far as to say job done but we’ve definitely got one foot in the semi-final.

A much improved display as well from recent weeks. It’s amazing what quick, accurate passing can do, compared to the ponderous, relentless backwards and sideways passing we’ve seen from our midfield so often this season. Henderson was a revelation and showed an excellent passing range. It does make you wonder how his passing can be so bad at times however, when you see what he does have in his locker. Regardless, it was one of our most complete performances of the season and further demonstrated this team’s growing maturity, especially as we had a couple of key players missing for last night’s game.

On to Chelsea now and while Keita has done himself no harm, I expect him to make way for Gini’s dirty work, or perhaps Milner’s reliability. Other than that, I would keep the midfield the same as last night, while bringing back Robbo and Matip. Chelsea is our toughest game left (on paper) and if we can pick up the victory, it really would pile the pressure on City, as they prepare for two very tough games in Spurs and United.

With a slight upturn in form (if not results), can we win every game between now and the end of the season? With Keita and Hendo finding some form, along with the return to fitness of Gomez, Lovren and to a lesser degree Ox, I see no reason why not.

Onwards and Kloppwards then, all the way to the title. YNWA
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