Player ratings: Porto 1-4 Liverpool

VVD-and-Mane-celebrate
Job done then and fairly emphatically by the end but it wasn’t all plain sailing, as we really struggled to get a grip of the game in the first half. I couldn’t see us not scoring however, which was always going to kill the tie and so it proved. Let’s see how the lads scored.

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Alisson (6.5) - Had a number of routine saves to make in the first half. Routine as they were, you still need to save them and he did so comfortably in stark contrast to what we’ve been used to in recent seasons. More poor decision making with the ball at his feet however. During a frantic first thirty minutes, when Porto were throwing the kitchen sink at us and we literally couldn’t string three passes together, there was a number of occasions that the ball came into Alisson’s grasp and you’re looking for him to slow things down and give everyone a minute to compose themselves but no, he’d put one of our defenders bang in trouble with a dodgy pass or on a couple of occasions just kicked the ball out of play. This side of his game really must improve long term. The fancy footwork and building from the back has its place but too often when we’re under pressure, he simply increases that pressure.

TAA (7.5) - Started poorly, as the team as a whole did but grew into the game. His assist for Salah was pass of the night and he was full of running as always. What a rise this lad has had. He’s gone from youth player to seasoned Champions League player in under two years. The fact he’s nowhere near his peak yet should be a terrifying prospect for our rivals. Subbed for a well earned rest second half.

Matip (7) - Yet again, another solid display from our very own ‘Bambi on ice’. Showed a brilliant piece of composure in one incident where he effectively just stood still and let the Porto attacker run into him. Doesn’t sound like much but if he’d done anything else, he almost certainly would have conceded a penalty and he only had a split second to make his decision. We need to keep him fit until the end of the season as he’s in the form of his life.

Van Dijk (8) - We’re starting to run out of superlatives for our number four. Couple of nervy moments first half when the team was all over the place and he’ll be disappointed to have conceded from a corner in the manner we did, costing the clean sheet. The goal wasn’t his fault however and he got his revenge by scoring our fourth goal and thus icing our victory cake.

Robertson (7) - Usual tireless display from Robbo and it was his running into space that initiated the build up to our first goal. Played one superb cross field pass first half as well, which temporarily eased my frustration at our awful passing. Will be disappointed not to have got himself an assist, however a game where we score four and Robbo doesn’t have at least one assist, is something of a collectors item. It will be interesting to see the final score in he and Trent’s competition. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will put the rest of Europe’s fullbacks to shame.

Fabinho (6.5) - Absolutely diabolical first half and was as guilty as anyone of repeatedly giving the ball away. Much improved second half display which has salvaged his score somewhat. Having been in fine form before being left out for a few games, his form has become a little patchy in recent weeks. He breaks up play superbly however and when we have a lead to hold on to, I’d always have him in the team. I have no doubts about Fabinho however. A fine player and I expect he’ll be even better next season, now he’s properly settled.

Wijnaldum (5.5) - Dreadful first half and fairly anonymous second half from Gini I thought. He wasn’t even dirty at half time and was only a little dirty by the end of the game. Not in good form at the moment, looks a bit burnt out, even after his recent rest.

Milner (6.5) - Like his midfield colleagues, all over the place first half as our midfield just couldn’t get a grip of the game at all. Like the rest, improved second half and showed his adaptability as he seamlessly slotted into the left back position, after Robbo was subbed second half. Capable of playing much better however.

Salah (8) - A goal and an assist for Salah on the night and he has well and truly put his goal drought behind him. Throughout his Anfield career, Salah has had a knack of being really effective, even when not playing particularly well. He was hopeless first half but still popped up with an assist and a much improved second half display was rewarded with a goal. I’ve been really impressed with Salah's defensive industry in recent weeks as well, he’s putting in a shift for the team and is back amongst the goals. Happy days.

Mane (8.5) - I’ve gone for Mane as my man of the match for two reasons. He scored the all important opener which killed the tie and he was the only one of our forward players to turn up in the first half. Mane has scored lots of important opening goals in games this season, he flies under the radar a bit sometimes, in Salah’s shadow but he is just as important to this team as Mo and this season, he’s been arguably more important. Got another assist for his troubles as well, nodding on the corner for Van Dijk to head in. Mane has gone up a level this season in my opinion. Keep it up lad.

Origi (5) - This was the first time Origi had ever started a game in the Champions League knock out stages. Now we know why. Dreadful first half, ran into trouble time and again, gave the ball away again and again and was generally just a headless chicken. Subbed at half time.

Subs:

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Firmino (8) - The game changed completely when Bobby came on and Porto simply couldn’t handle him. Instigated Salah’s goal by winning the ball back in the left back position before releasing Trent. Got himself on the score sheet as well with a well taken header as we started to run away with the game. We badly miss him when he’s not playing, as the first half demonstrated. Fine player.

Henderson (8) - Another superb cameo from the captain. Took the game by the scruff of the neck when he came on and our game immediately went up a level, although Porto had sort of given up by then. None the less, suddenly our midfield could pass and he got himself another assist with a fine cross for Bobby’s goal. Hendo is arguably in the finest form of his career and is one of the first names on my team sheet at the moment. I wouldn’t have believed I’d be writing that three months ago but given his current form, you can’t leave him out. Couldn’t have picked a better time too.

Gomez (6) - Looked understandably rusty but great to see him back in action.

Klopp-watch (7) - I thought the decision to start Origi was a strange one, especially as he then subbed him at half time, after we’d scored the away goal that effectively killed the tie. His substitutions definitely changed the game however and fair play, consecutive Champions League semi-finals is not to be sniffed at and for the first time in decades, we have a squad capable of reaching the latter stages in Europe, while also maintaining a title challenge. That is elite level, now all that’s missing is the silverware. Hopefully we put that right in the coming weeks.

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Summary:

A really mixed performance then. We were diabolical first half and extremely fortunate to find ourselves 1-0 up at halftime. Greg posted an interesting stat during the first half, that our outfield players average pass accuracy was 44%. Just think about that, that's not even half our passes finding their intended target. That is ridiculous, you could pick eleven people out the crowd and they wouldn’t do any worse. It’s something I’ve been banging on about all season but our midfield passing badly needs to improve. Whether that’s done through transfers or hours on the training pitch, it doesn’t matter. Something needs to be done about it, it’s been glaringly obvious all season.

On a more positive note, in the second half, the introduction of Firmino at half time and Hendo in the later stages, led to us blowing Porto away and cruising into the semis, with another morale boosting win to take home with us. Salah looks back to being himself, Mane and Bobby are in fine form, Hendo is tearing up his personal form book and in general, everything is rosy.

City on the other hand, suffered something of a traumatic defeat to Spurs midweek, seeing them crash out of the Champions League at the quarter final stage for the umpteenth time. I was of the thinking it would be more beneficial to us for them to go all the way to the final but the manner in which their European exit and dreams of a quadruple ended, may well do some psychological harm to both squad and manager. There’s no let up for them either, as they play Spurs again at lunchtime tomorrow and then United on Wednesday night. This is the pivotal week in the title race. Let’s hope they’re suffering from the mother of all European hangovers.

On to Cardiff for us on Sunday then and that bitter lunatic Neil Warnock. They’ll set up to frustrate no doubt but I fancy we should have too much for them. Hopefully a win in that game will put us top of the table for the rest of the season as I really feel City will drop at least two points over their next two games. That should be enough for the title.

The small matter of Barca in the Champions League semis awaits as well. A mouthwatering tie and a reunion with Suarez and Coutinho. It would be poetic justice if we were to knock Barca and Coutinho out, on route to becoming champions. A bit like us winning the Champions League the season after Owen left for Madrid. Anyway, I wasn’t impressed by them against United and as the song says, We’ve conquered all of Europe... Walk on troops.
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