Keita growing into Liverpool role with his second goal in as many games
The Guinean opened his account for Liverpool at the weekend.
Naby Keita retained his starting spot in midfield for Liverpool’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto at Anfield on Tuesday night.
The Guinean has sometimes flattered to deceive since joining for a then club record fee last July but he opened his account in the win at Southampton last Friday.
Here, Press Association Sport assesses the 24-year-old’s contribution against the Portuguese champions.
Lining up on the left of a midfield three, with Fabinho in the centre and captain Jordan Henderson on the right, Keita was given plenty of space as Porto right-winger Jesus Corona dropped deep when defending in an effort to help nullify the threat of Roberto Firmino. Given license to roam free, Keita’s pace, positioning and quick thinking meant he was a useful outlet between defence and attack on several occasions.
There can be little doubting Keita’s commitment when going forward and though he was, at times, frenetic, on the whole he linked up well with Liverpool’s much-vaunted front trio of Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. He was, however, a little excitable in the tackle and might count himself lucky not to at least be yellow carded for a two-footed challenge on Francisco Soares in the opening quarter of an hour. He was also infrequently sluggish in tracking back.
Keita wasted no time in doubling his Liverpool tally, exploiting the space in the centre to take the ball from Firmino and shoot beyond Iker Casillas – thanks largely to a deflection off Oliver Torres. A more concise pass to Mane would have put the Senegalese clean through a little later in the first half and there were occasions when his final ball was lacking. His productivity dipped in the second half although he was not the only Liverpool player guilty of dropping off after the interval.
Keita’s fifth-minute strike – even if there was a degree of fortune to the goal – settled any nerves on another big European night for Liverpool. It also put the Merseysiders in a position of control which they never relinquished as they recorded a comfortable 2-0 victory. There were some moments of genuine quality from the former RB Leipzig man but a couple of errors, too, and his night may very well have been curtailed much earlier by a stricter referee.