It was a weird feeling on the way to Anfield. The first leg demolition of Porto had left the tie almost over even before the second leg had started. My nerves, even with a ¼ final beckoning, were non-existent. Even Liverpool couldn’t mess this one up.
The news on the radio and social media was that Jurgen Klopp was going strong with his team selection. It was surprising given Manchester United looming over the horizon. Only the likes of Mo Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been rested for the forthcoming battle ahead, with the latter eventually getting a cameo role late on in the sterile game.
Visitors from Portugal
A sizeable travelling support from the visitors could be heard a mile away as we parked the car up and made the walk up to the ground. These same supporters, fantastic in the Estadio do Dragao a few weeks earlier, got massively let down during the minutes silence for Davide Astori, the deceased Fiorentina captain. A handful or more, broke the impeccable silence, forcing the referee to abort the tribute early with a shrill of his whistle.
I didn’t know what to expect both match wise and also atmosphere wise. Normally Anfield would be bouncing to the rafters on a knockout European night. How would we approach the 2nd leg would be more fascinating? Even though we progressed comfortably, it was ultimately disappointing performance wise. The bonus being that there didn’t look like we had picked up and injuries, besides Jordan Henderson having an ice pack on his thigh as a precaution.
The atmosphere was good considering in the circumstances. An early 15-minute rendition of the new Kop favourite song (about conquering Europe from Paris down to Turkey) liven the old place up. The travelling Portuguese continued to back their side throughout, even though pride was their only think on their mind.
On the pitch
The game itself was disappointing. Maybe we’ve been spoiled recently with free-flowing football, that results in goals, goals and more goals. It’s not often the reds don’t score these days. Another clean sheet was achieved. This was despite a back four (especially Joel Matip) that couldn’t, especially in the first half, pass ‘Go’ in Monopoly even if they were comfortably placed on Mayfair with two dice in their hand.
It felt like a training match at times. Porto kept the ball for an age before giving possession over to Liverpool easily, before Liverpool did the same and it continued like that for long spells. My pre-match bet of ‘Both Teams to Score’ looked doomed from early on.
James Milner was his usual effervescent self, flying into tackles and covering more ground than most. He almost treats every game like a cup final. The rest of the side almost understandably went through the motions, with only a Sadio Mane effort in the first half, which hit the post, and a late Iker Casillas save any real chance of note. However, mission was complete and the ¼ final on Friday 16th March awaits the Merseyside giants.
The road to Kiev
Real Madrid also joined the Reds in that draw with a relatively comfortable win over many people’s dark horses Paris St Germain. Who else will join us in that draw? Manchester City and Bayern Munich are in a similar position to Liverpool, in that the 1st leg has almost ended the tie. The rest of ties could arguably go either way, even though there is a clear favourite in almost all the remaining games.
There is a long way to go to Kiev but who would want Liverpool in the next round. I think a few teams will be hoping to avoid the reds over the two-legged format. Before that draw we have the small matter of Old Trafford to take care of.