Porto 1-4 Liverpool (agg. 1-6)
If Moussa Marega had taken his chances in both legs maybe it would have been different. If the referee had chosen to award a penalty and send off Mo Salah at Anfield maybe it would have been different. If Jesús Corona’s spectacular dribble and shot in the opening minute at the Dragão last night had sent the ball just under rather than just over the bar maybe it would have been different. But it probably wouldn’t.
For the second year running, Liverpool proved far too strong for Porto and beat the Portuguese team by a 5-goal margin on aggregate.
Porto welcomed back Pepe and captain Héctor Herrera, both suspended from the first leg, and coach Sérgio Conceição also recalled Brahimi as Tiquinho Soares started on the bench. For Liverpool, Andy Robertson was back in the line-up while Roberto Firmino sat out at the start as Origi was given a rare start.
Just like in the first leg, Porto started strongly, some magical wing play by Corona almost leading to a dream start for the Dragons and Marega testing Alison with a shot on the turn, and just like last week Liverpool took the lead with practically their first dangerous attack. Salah wriggled free of his markers in the box and crossed for Mané to slide in and score from close range.
The goal effectively ended the tie – Porto now needed to score 4 goals without reply in an hour to turn it around. To their credit, the hosts continued to apply heavy pressure, but the difference in quality between the two teams is most evident in the clinical nature of Liverpool’s finishing. Salah, Firmino and Van Dijk all found the net, with Militão heading in Porto’s consolation.
After 90 minutes when Porto had dominated play for the majority of the match, it ended up another chastening scoreline for the Blue and Whites.
Despite the result, Conceição praised his players for their efforts: “My players were fantastic in the way they understood what we wanted from the game. We lacked a clinical touch. The first goal came out of nothing. If we had scored first, I really believe things could have gone our way.”
Porto’s season is far from over and the Dragons will now focus on attempting to retain their championship crown before the Portuguese Cup final against Sporting brings the curtain down on the 2018/19 season. As for Liverpool, Klopp’s impressive English side continue their titanic struggle with Manchester City for the EPL title and face Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League.
More than ever, we are talking about the same game but two very different realities.
By Tom Kundert