Liverpool 2-0 Porto - The Reds place one foot in the semi finals with victory at Anfield - Match Review
It may be just half-time in this tie between Liverpool and Porto however it may be effectively over with Liverpool managing to secure a victory at Anfield. They will still have to turn up and perform well in the away leg, Porto came close to scoring a few times and proved that they can be a dangerous side but with a 2 goal advantage as well as avoiding any away goals it is hard to see Liverpool not advancing through to the Semi-Finals from this position.
With Andy Robertson suspended for this game Alberto Moreno may have hoped for a rare chance to play at left-back but the Spaniard did not even make the subs bench, instead, Jurgen Klopp opted to switch James Milner into the defence as he has done on previous occasions. There was another change to the back five with Dejan Lovren coming back into the side in place of Joel Matip. In midfield, Jordan Henderson did come into the side as expected but surprisingly for a lot of fans he came in at the expense of Gini Wijnaldum while Naby Keita remained in the starting lineup. Porto set up with a 3-4-3 formation but throughout the game, it looked more like a 5-3-2 as the wide players dropped back to help in defence.
Liverpool seemed to look a little nervy as the game got underway, there was a few misplaced and under hit passes going awry in the early moments of the game. That was all settled down though when Liverpool took an early lead with a 5th-minute goal from Naby Keita, the midfielder hadn't scored all season until he bagged the equaliser against Southampton at the weekend and now made it 2 in a row with this early strike. It was a good move initiated by a ball forward from Milner towards Mane on the left wing, Mane beat his man and played it inside to Firmino in the penalty area. The Brazilian cut it back for Keita who struck the shot, it took a rather big deflection on it's way past Casillas into the back of the net but the original shot was on target and so Keita will get the credit.
Around the 25th minute, Liverpool hit Porto again with a brilliant piece of teamwork finished off by Roberto Firmino to double their advantage. Firmino picked the ball up deep inside the half and squared it across to Jordan Henderson then made a run into the penalty area. Henderson shaped as if he was going to find Firmino but instead played a killer through ball to Trent Alexander Arnold who had gotten forward down the right wing. The Liverpool fullback played it across the goalmouth to where Firmino was on hand to tap it in over the line. There was a hint that Firmino may have been offside but the VAR showed Firmino was behind that ball as it was played and the goal was rightfully allowed to stand.
That was not the last instance VAR was called upon with a few controversial moments throughout the rest of the game. First, there was a question to whether Trent Alexander Arnold had used his arm but after being reviewed by VAR no penalty was given, some believe this was an incorrect call however I think the ball may have been out of play by the time it hit his arm and that is why it was not awarded. Sadio Mane had the ball in the back of the net after another brilliant ball by Jordan Henderson but Liverpool was denied the 3rd goal after the VAR showed Mane was just offside when the ball was played.
Finally, VAR was the centre of attention later in the game when a challenge from Mo Salah on Danilo Pereira was reviewed. Salah had come over the top of the ball bringing his studs down onto Pereira's shin, it seemed like a bad challenge and could have been followed by a red card but the VAR determined no action should be taken.
A two-goal advantage and a clean sheet mean Liverpool are very much in the driving seat of this fixture and big favourites to advance into the semis. Porto did manage to come back from a losing position in the previous round against Roma but in that tie, they did grab an away goal which they couldn't find at Anfield despite Marega having numerous chances. In order for them to have any hope of advancing they will need to prevent Liverpool scoring in Porto, a big ask considering they helped themselves to 5 the last time they visited.
The 2nd leg will take place next week on April 17th and in the meantime, the sides will continue the challenge for their respective domestic titles, Liverpool will host Chelsea while Porto takes on Portimonense.