Belfast Telegraph

Reds in cruise control as Porto are swept aside

Porto 0-5 Liverpool

Cool head: Mohamed Salah weaves past keeper Jose Sa to put Liverpool 2-0 up
Cool head: Mohamed Salah weaves past keeper Jose Sa to put Liverpool 2-0 up
Virgil van Dijk presents hat-trick hero Sadio Mane with the match ball

By Carl Markham

Sadio Mane scored a hat-trick and Mohamed Salah continued his phenomenal run with a 30th of the season as Liverpool won 5-0 at Porto to virtually assure themselves a Champions League quarter-final place.

Mane was in the right place at the right time to score twice in the first half before rifling home his hat-trick just before the end, to overshadow the exploits of Salah, whose brilliant individual effort made him the second-fastest to the 30-goal landmark in the club's history and the quickest for 122 years.

Roberto Firmino also had an outstanding game and his goal - his seventh in Europe this season, with only Cristiano Ronaldo scoring more - was just reward for the Brazilian.

It ensured a comfortable night in the Estadio do Dragao as the Reds' first knockout encounter in nine years at this level passed without major incident.

Porto, without injured five-goal top scorer from the group stage Vincent Aboubakar, had won won 13 of their last 15 games and conceded just once in the last six, and the early signs were that they would be tough opponents.

A desperate lunge from Dejan Lovren deflected Otavio's shot just over Loris Karius' crossbar as a game of cat-and-mouse developed in the opening 20 minutes.

But with Liverpool dominating possession, it was only a matter of time before a team with this firepower would find a way through.

When it came, in the 26th minute, it may have owed something to the conditions with rain swirling around the pitch as it had the city all day.

Georginio Wijnaldum's pass reached Mane on the left of the area and his shot squirmed under Jose Sa despite the goalkeeper getting a hefty touch.

If that was the nerve-settler, the second goal was a cause for celebration, coming after James Milner cut in from the left and lashed a right-footed shot against the far post.

The lurking Salah was quickest to react, collecting the rebound, flicking the ball up twice with his left foot, nodding it on with his third touch and then forcing home from close range - all within the space of about five yards.

It was the Egyptian's ninth in his last eight matches, scoring in his last six games in a row, and only George Allan, whose 27 games in 1896 was seven faster than Salah, has reached 30 goals quicker.

Yacine Brahimi cutting through Liverpool's defence for Franciso Soares to fire just wide was a wake-up call seconds before the interval.

It was one they heeded as, after soaking up some early pressure, a quick counter-attack featuring an exquisite back-heel lay-off by Firmino to Salah in the centre-circle led to Mane tapping home his second after Firmino's shot was parried.

The Brazil international finally found the target with 20 minutes to go as he side-footed home Milner's cross before Mane's piledriver put the tie surely beyond Porto.

PORTO: Jose Sa, Ricardo Pereira, Reyes, Marcano, Alex Telles, Sergio Oliveira, Herrera, Marega, Otavio (Corona, 46 mins), Brahimi (Waris, 62 mins), Tiquinho Soares (Paciencia, 74 mins). Unused subs: Casillas, Maxi Pereira, Osorio, Torres.

Liverpool: Karius, Alexander-Arnold (Gomez, 79 mins), Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Henderson (Matip, 75 mins), Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino (Ings, 80 mins), Mane. Unused subs: Mignolet, Moreno, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy)

Man of the match: Sadio Mane

Match rating: 8/10

Belfast Telegraph


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