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Porto vs Liverpool: Five things we learned as Curtis Jones shines in Champions League

The Independent
The Independent
 22 days ago

Liverpool picked up a second straight win in the Champions League on Tuesday night, beating Porto 5-1 in Group B.

The Reds were largely on top from early on and took the lead less than 20 minutes in, Mohamed Salah gleefully accepting a gift two yards out after goalkeeper Diogo Costa failed to hold onto Curtis Jones ’ shot.

Their dominance only increased from there, but Jones and Diogo Jota spurned several efforts between them before Sadio Mane tapped in a second after a fine low cross from James Milner.

After the break the chances kept coming and Salah scored his second after great work from Jones; Mehdi Taremi pulled one back but Roberto Firmino hit two off the bench to wrap up a great night’s work for the Reds.

Here are five things we learned from the match at the Estadio do Dragao.

Milner stands in

With Trent Alexander-Arnold not travelling due to injury - and struggling already to make the weekend against Man City, according to Jurgen Klopp - James Milner was drafted in at right-back for the second time this season.

Early on he faced a test against Porto’s main outlet, Luis Diaz, but he stood up to the test very well, blocking the run a couple of times and making one good tackle on the edge of his own box. After that, it was all about running the other way.

Milner showed he still has what it takes there, too, with a great low delivery - aided by dreadful goalkeeping again - to assist Mane for 2-0.

Porto struggle without key men

Two centre-backs down heading into a match against Liverpool is less than ideal, it must be said.

Chancel Mbemba was suspended, so out anyway, but they had hoped to call upon the services of the veteran Pepe. He had been struggling through injury and, despite initially being named in the starting XI, had to pull out during the warm-up, leaving the defence looking very much makeshift.

Add in the reliable wide man Otavio going off just a few minutes after kick-off and the Primeira Liga side really struggled to impose their own game without several of their core seniors on show.

All three forwards in business

Liverpool’s famed front three hasn’t been quite as in-tandem with each other in the last 12 months as they were for the couple of years previously, partly down to rotation, injury, Firmino’s drop-off and the signing of Diogo Jota.

The Portuguese forward has been a regular starter of late but fluffed his lines several times here - while all three of the ‘originals’ found the net.

Salah’s were tap-ins, Mane’s too, while Firmino buried one from 40 yards after a remarkable (or remarkably bad) rush from goal from Diogo Costa, then another from close range and the VAR overruled the assistant.

Curtis takes his chance

Three successive starts for Curtis Jones, all in different competitions - he was a very strong performer here again.

Klopp had spoken about the need for him to find consistency and, after netting against Brentford at the weekend, this was another showing where he contributed regularly to the performance, had a hand in goals and didn’t look remotely out of place in a high-pressing, ball-winning midfield.

His second assist was magic for Klopp: tackle, dribble and fantastic pass into a dangerous area.

It would be a huge vote of confidence in a player who barely featured toward the end of last season if he was to stay in the side for the weekend Premier League game.

Preparation for City

That weekend game takes centre stage immediately in Liverpool’s preparations now, with the same again required in large part: perhaps the same amount of goals won’t be forthcoming, but the high pressure in midfield, the constant movement in the final third and the clinical touch when chances do arrive will all need to be replicated.

City’s win over Chelsea last weekend put down a marker, especially after the Blues and the Reds drew at Anfield earlier in the campaign.

This next fixture and who comes out on top - even in that mini-league between the three clubs - might well be indicative of where the trophy may end up come May.

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