Mane hat-trick puts one Liverpool foot into quarters after Porto rout
The vociferous crowd at the Estadio do Dragao was quietened early and muzzled not long after as Jürgen Klopp's side thumped the Portuguese league leaders.
Porto vs Liverpool: match report
Tonight's trip to the Estadio do Dragao was a return, at last for the club's fans, to the Champions League knock-out phase after nine long years. And what a return it was. Few of those related to The Reds could have imagined coming away from the home of the Portuguese league leaders with a five goal cushion. As with Manchester City's 0-4 win in Basel a night earlier, barring an unprecedented disaster, Liverpool will be in the virtual hat for the quarter final draw.
Klopp's unit working in unison
The obvious protagonists of the drizzly evening in Porto were the front trio of Firmino, Salah and Mane who scored all five goals. But there were so many moving parts to this Liverpool team that made the attacking roles possible. Henderson and Milner were solid, snuffing out potential dangers as they appeared. Wijnaldum was quick to link play across the stretching field. And in defence, much praise must be given: Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson getting forward well on the flanks and delivering quality balls into José Sá's area, keeping the home defenders wary. And in the centre, Lovren and Van Dijk were in control of much that threatened, while Karius commanded crosses flung towards his goal, while being sharp to clear up when required.
Salah, Firmino and Mane, Mane, Mane
But as convincing as a five goals to nil scoreline sounds, Klopp will know that the early exchanges were less one-sided, and it took a goalkeeping error from Sá to give Liverpool the lead, Mane getting a strike away which should never have slipped under the keeper on the 24th minute. Four minutes later Salah marked his 30th goal for the club in his debut season but controlling a Milner rebound off the post and dancing over Sá before tapping home. The Egyptian national team coach will hope this incredible form carries over into Russia this summer.
As Porto pushed on in the second half, they were always leaving themselves exposed and it didn't take long for Liverpool's trio to demonstrate. In the 52nd minute, Porto found themselves committed in the opposition half and as they were dispossessed, quick thinking and passing saw Salah break, recieve back a subline backheel pass from Firmino and when the Brazilian was fed again, his saved shot fell to Mane who stroked home cleanly. The game felt over but a smart finish from Firmino off a Milner cut back, and a sweet strike from the hat-trick hero made fans from both teams sense that the Last 16 tie has also been put to bed.
Read how it happened below...