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Tuesday 16 October 2018

Klopp delight as steady Reds book place in quarter-finals

Liverpool 0 Porto 0

Heads up: Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Porto’s Vincent Aboubakar battle for the ball during the Champions League last-16 second leg clash at Anfield. Photo: PA
Heads up: Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Porto’s Vincent Aboubakar battle for the ball during the Champions League last-16 second leg clash at Anfield. Photo: PA

Liverpool eased into the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in nine years with no great alarm in a somewhat lifeless goalless draw at home to Porto.

This game was the antithesis of their 5-0 win in the first leg at the Estadio do Dragao but a professional performance, a fifth clean sheet in eight European matches and no apparent injuries represented mission accomplished.

While supporters may have had a justifiable complaint for being short-changed by the Champions League's top scorers there was absolutely no point in taking any risks - especially with Saturday's battle to be the Premier League's best of the rest at Manchester United looming large.

Jurgen Klopp made five changes, two more than he had suggested pre-match, with the most significant being a rest for 32-goal forward Mohamed Salah and a first start in two months for Adam Lallana.

Whether alterations, the five-goal cushion from the first leg or Old Trafford looming large affected the occasion is open to debate but the game was played at a much lower intensity that what is considered the norm.

In control: Porto’s Felipe Augusto de Almeida Monteiro (left) and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino battle for the ball at Anfield last night. Photo: PA
In control: Porto’s Felipe Augusto de Almeida Monteiro (left) and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino battle for the ball at Anfield last night. Photo: PA

It was reflected in the first-half statistics which showed Liverpool failed to have a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes for only the second time this season and the first time since the 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea in November.

Sadio Mane, having volleyed over a good chance from Joe Gomez's cross, came closest on the half-hour when he chested down James Milner's diagonal ball and shot past Iker Casillas, making his 167th Champions League appearance, but saw the ball rebound off the post.

Sliced

Lovren flicked a header onto the roof of the net from a free-kick by Milner, who with better finishing from his team-mates would have added to his competition-leading seven assists.

The former England midfielder took matters into his own hands early in the second half but sliced horribly wide from Lallana's cross.

Porto's response was to force the first save of the night from either goalkeeper with Loris Karius tipping wide Majeed Waris' strike from distance, while Firmino's run through on goal was halted by the visitors' captain Felipe.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp celebrates with Mohamed Salah after the game. Photo: Reuters
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp celebrates with Mohamed Salah after the game. Photo: Reuters

Firmino, who will be so important against Jose Mourinho's side at the weekend, was spared the final 30 minutes as Danny Ings made his first Champions League appearance at Anfield and with time ticking away Salah was given a 20-minute run-out.

The in-form Egypt international had one angled shot easily saved as his run of scoring in successive matches ended at seven but with a 24th European quarter-final in the bag (14 in this competition), his talents will be required for a more important occasion.

Casillas, who emerged for the second half to a rousing ovation from the Kop, gave Anfield a reminder of his quality by clawing away Ings' looping header late on.

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