Liverpool 0-0 FC Porto: First-leg demolition enough as Reds move on to quarter-finals

Liverpool sealed qualification to the next round of the Champions League with a goalless draw at home to the Portuguese league leaders

Liverpool 0-0 FC Porto: First-leg demolition enough as Reds move on to quarter-finals
Liverpool's Sadio Mané leaps to reach a cross from Joe Gomez against Porto | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Liverpool
0 0
Porto
Liverpool: Karius; Moreno, Lovren, Matip, Gomez; Milner, Henderson, Can (Klavan, min. 80); Lallana, Firmino (Ings, min. 61), Mané (Salah, min. 74).
Porto: Casillas; Dalot, Reyes, Felipe, Pereira; Corona, André (Oliveira, min. 62), Óliver, Costa; Waris (Ricardo, min. 68), Aboubakar (Paciência, min. 80).
REFEREE: Felix Zwayer (GER). Booked: Henderson (min. 59), Dalot (min. 90+2).

Liverpool's 5-0 first-leg win was enough to see them through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League after a goalless draw at home to Porto

Sadio Mané went closest to scoring, hitting the post after a clever pass over the defence from James Milner, but it was a game of little urgency and no real threat of the unthinkable Porto comeback.

Liverpool will have been disappointed not to score given their form of late, but an incident-free draw will be welcome with this weekend's trip to Manchester United on the horizon.

Little endeavour in first half

While the pre-match talk in the Liverpool camp had been about 'starting again at 0-0', it was a 0-0 which both sides seemed happy enough to cling onto.

The visitors made ten changes from the first leg and, while their line-up seemed an ambitious one, they struggled throughout the first half to make any impact on the Liverpool defence. 

Passes in behind for Majeed Waris to chase were as much as they were able to muster in the opening 45 minutes, with Porto looking tidy on the ball but without the necessary cutting edge to execute a five-goal comeback.

Liverpool, too, struggled to come up with the whirlwind attacking play which has characterised their season, though the presence of Mohamed Salah on the bench was an ominous one for the boisterous away supporters.

Their best two chances in the first half both fell to Mané, the hat-trick hero of the first leg.

He acrobatically stretched his leg to divert a Joe Gomez cross over the crossbar, before hitting the inside of the post with the first clear-cut opportunity of the game around the half-hour mark after a nicely weighted pass from James Milner.

 

Similar story in second period

The second half was a little more open, and Milner could have scored within five minutes had he not fallen while shooting from Lallana's low cross. 

Waris pulled a decent low save from Loris Karius at the other end, before Roberto Firmino raced clear and looked set to open the scoring. Defender Felipe slipped to the ground, but recovered to block and clear before his Brazilian compatriot could finish.

Substitute Danny Ings rose only to head straight at Iker Casillas, before Jesús Corona had an optimistic penalty appeal waved away after beating two Liverpool defenders down the left but running straight into another in the area.

Salah came on to replace Mané with 15 minutes to play, as Klopp made sure all three of his first-choice attackers were given a rest with Firmino already withdrawn from the action.

The Egyptian crossed for Milner soon after coming on and the England man did well to leap and power a header at goal, but it was another simple catch for Casillas. Óliver Torres almost snuck in a late winner from a set-piece, but the hosts survived their only real scare of the night.

The last moment of quality came from Casillas, who back-pedalled superbly to deny Ings' looping header from a deep Salah cross as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes.

There was more enterprise from Liverpool in the second half and it was a game which they dominated, but Porto did well to contain their attacking threat for the most part.

Liverpool move on to the quarter-finals, while Porto will refocus on domestic affairs, as they look to hold onto a five-point lead at the top of the Portuguese table.

 

Pleasing return for Lallana

It may not have been a dream return for Adam Lallana, but it was a solid performance from the playmaker who was making his first start since the FA Cup win over Everton in January.

Coming into the attack in place of Salah, Liverpool inevitably looked less potent but he was an industrious and creative figure in their attacking third and could have had more to show for his efforts after Milner shanked his cross wide early in the second half.

Liverpool haven't shown any signs of missing Philippe Coutinho of late, but Lallana is a player who would have been relishing the chance to step up and replace him when the Brazilian left in January.

Confident and injury-free, Lallana is capable of being an important player for Liverpool, and possibly England at this summer's World Cup. Jürgen Klopp knows the importance of easing his return to full fitness, but this game was a step in the right direction.

 

Casillas feels the love from the Kop

If there wasn't a huge amount of drama on the pitch, there was at least one nice moment as the teams came out for the second half.

Porto's legendary goalkeeper Iker Casillas, now 36, received a touching round of applause from the Kop end as he walked over to take his place between the posts, and returned the favour with applause of his own for the home fans.

With Casillas thought to be close to retirement, it was a show of mutual admiration for a player who has won it all and a fanbase who have seen it all.