Jurgen Klopp has no doubt Liverpool belong in the Champions League quarter-finals after confirming their progress with a goalless draw against Porto.
The Reds’ progress to the last eight of the competition for the first time in nine years had been all-but assured after they won 5-0 at the Estadio do Dragao in the first leg.
A fifth clean sheet in eight European matches represented mission accomplished and Klopp admitted Liverpool’s return to the upper echelons of European football was overdue.
“It feels good to be honest, really good,” he said.
“I cannot feel what people feel who have waited so long for it, but it feels good. Last eight is cool. I think it was time we show up again.
“There is good development at Liverpool at the moment, it is a nice moment, but if you don’t show up in a competition like the Champions League then nobody really will realise it.
“So I am happy for all the people involved that we made that step. It’s done, it’s good and now let’s go and carry on.”
“I don’t want to make it smaller than it is but on the other side I don’t want to make it bigger than it is. I think this year we belong there to be honest – it should not be a big surprise.
“The next round will be very difficult, I think that’s clear. Seven other very good teams will be involved, and maybe four of them are from England. It doesn’t make it easier to be honest.
“But I think we will have a chance, for sure, to go to the semis and that is, of course, the target. But take it step by step, and tonight it is cool, absolutely.”
While the second leg, for which Klopp made five changes ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford, was low on entertainment, the 50-year-old felt his players did well.
He added: “Probably if you draw the first game away in the knockout stage and then win at home maybe it feels different to tonight, but the maximum you can achieve is the next round and we did that in a quite comfortable way, and that I don’t think could have been expected.
“I am really happy about that. Tonight was a big challenge for us – the preparation was different to other games of course – and I think the boys did really well. We showed fantastic attitude, a few pieces of really nice football, and defended very seriously.
“We are through to the next round and I do not need any more positives.”
Klopp, who gave top-scorer Mohamed Salah a run-out of just under 20 minutes as a substitute, confirmed captain Jordan Henderson had suffered a dead leg that was “painful enough but should not be a problem”.
Porto coach Sergio Conceicao felt his side had restored some pride after their first-leg hammering.
“After the first game we wanted to give a different image of our club. Porto is a club that always plays to win. We’re never going to be satisfied with a draw,” he said.
“Liverpool are definitely one of the teams who can win the Champions League this year.
“They might not have been at their best this evening, but they’re definitely one of the contenders to win the competition.”