Liverpool 2-0 FC Porto
Porto’s English hoodoo struck again as two first-half goals at Anfield gave Liverpool victory in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.
In 19 visits to England in European competition, Porto have never won, losing 16 and drawing 3 matches. Had Moussa Marega been sharper in front of goal the Dragons could have brought an all-important away goal back to Portugal, but coach Sérgio Conceição insists the tie is far from over.
Porto set up with a 5-man defence in an attempt to stymie Liverpool’s powerful attacking weapons, and the opening exchanges of the match were encouraging for the visitors with play confined to the home side’s defensive half of the pitch.
However, in the very first attack by the Reds the ball was worked to Naby Keita on the edge of the box, whose shot took a fortunate deflection off Óliver Torres to loop past Ikar Casillas and give Liverpool the lead in the 5th minute. The goal sapped Porto’s confidence, Salah twice came close to scoring as the home side dominated, and it was little surprise when Firmino doubled the lead in the 26th minute, tapping in from close range after a good move involving Henderson and Alexander-Arnold.
Almost immediately Porto had a golden chance to hit back as a pass from Óliver sent Marega clean through, but the Malian striker could not beat Alisson who saved with his legs. From the resulting corner there was a loud shout for a penalty, but after consulting VAR the referee dismissed claims for an Alexander-Arnold handball.
There were further chances at both ends for Marega and Firmino but it remained 2-0 going into the break. The second half started with Mané finding the net, but from an offside position, and the rest of the match was a more low-key affair, with Liverpool intent on saving energy and a more circumspect Porto finding it easier to keep the home side at bay.
Marega again had a chance to take aim a couple of times, but Alisson saved his angled shot comfortably and from a second opportunity he shot wide. Porto manager Sérgio Conceição later revealed the striker had been ill and vomiting all day. We will never know if a 100% Marega would have found the net, but an away goal would certainly have given the tie a completely different complexion.
Porto are not completely out of it, and on the evidence of this game it is not inconceivable the Blue and Whites can score two goals against the English Premier League leaders. The problem, however, will be not conceding at the other end…
Sérgio Conceição, Porto coach:
“We are at the halfway stage of the tie, we’re in the interval, this ain’t over yet. The lads in the changing room find it tough to accept this result. We believe we played a competent match, we could have got a different result, we could have left Anfield with a goal.
“The change in formation? Salah and Mané can go wide or come inside and are extremely dangerous. I thought this set-up would give us more balance, without losing our goal threat.”
Alex Telles, Porto left-back:
“It was a tough week for me. I underwent treatment night and day and missed some training because of my injury. But I do everything for my club and my profession.
“It’s not the positive result we wanted but we gave our all and showed we are a strong team, against powerful opponents. We’re disappointed with the defeat but we’re still alive. We’ll be fighting to get through right to the end.”
Danilo, Porto midfielder:
“The result is bad, but it’s still wide open. Next week we play at home and we are perfectly capable of scoring two goals.
“We started well, but the goal shook us a little. The goal was against the run of play. Worse was conceding the second goal, but in the second half we responded very well. When we attacked Liverpool we caused them lots of problems.”
By Tom Kundert