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Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino double up as Liverpool rout Porto

The Guardian
The Guardian
 23 days ago
Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring Liverpool’s fifth goal against Porto and honours Roger Hunt.

Liverpool sported black armbands in memory of Roger Hunt but perhaps the finest tribute to their prolific former striker came in the form of another ruthless rout of Porto. “Sir” would have undoubtedly approved of Liverpool’s clinical finishing and vast superiority, and revelled in Porto’s comical defending.

So much for the complexities of Group B. Jürgen Klopp’s team are coasting through at present and made Porto resemble Champions League novices – not a seasoned regular that had boasted an unbeaten start to the season without conceding a goal at home until Liverpool’s latest bruising arrival. Sérgio Conceição gathered his squad in a huddle around the centre circle after the final whistle before leading them on a lap of apology around this stadium. There were not many Porto fans left to accept it. They have witnessed 5-1, 4-1 and 5-0 defeats in the last three Champions League home games against Liverpool and had long accepted that any talk of revenge was entirely without foundation.

Mohamed Salah scored twice, Sadio Mané once and substitute Roberto Firmino grabbed the final two. In doing so he became the 24th Liverpool player to come off the bench and score two or more goals in a game. The first? Roger Hunt. All of Liverpool’s goalscorers will acknowledge the contribution of Curtis Jones. The 20-year-old midfielder was involved in all five goals and underlined his growing maturity with a performance that combined defensive industry with creative craft.

“Curtis played a really good game,” said Klopp, who fears Trent Alexander-Arnold could be sidelined until after the next international break with an adductor problem. “He [Curtis] had a stomach problem before the game and the doctor said we needed to keep an eye on him. Afterwards I told him, whatever it was – keep it! He was involved in everything. He set up the first goal with a surprising finish and there were a lot of other situations. He also played a top class defensive game, pressing on the blind side. I liked a lot of what I saw. Let’s keep it going, Curtis.”

Liverpool dominated without truly exerting themselves, such was the ease with which they exchanged passes under minimal pressure and picked holes in a hesitant, anxious rearguard. The hosts were admittedly not helped by losing their captain, 38-year-old Pepe, to a recurrence of a leg injury during the warm-up and right winger Otávio to another injury with 14 minutes gone. Even so, their defensive organisation was shambolic and goalkeeper Diogo Costa endured a calamitous night.

Costa’s first mistake silenced his own crowd and signalled the start of a familiar humiliation. Jones’s shot from the corner of the area was awkward for the keeper but he had to do better than parry it against the unwitting Zaidu Sanusi. Salah, lurking on the shoulder of the left-back, bundled the loose ball in from close range. It was the Egypt international’s sixth goal in his last seven Champions League games and his 28th in 47 for Liverpool overall.
Mohamed Salah shoots and Diego Costa attempts to save in the match when Salah scored twice. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Costa was culpable for Liverpool’s second goal, which arrived following a period of sustained pressure in which Diogo Jota had a shot tipped over and Jones waltzed through the Porto midfield before having an effort saved. It was only a matter of time until the hosts’ fragile resistance was broken again and James Milner, following his instructions to deputise for Alexander-Arnold to the letter, was the architect with a sweeping, precise cross from the right. Jones did well to keep the ball in play before Fabinho found Milner in space on the opposite flank. His low cross curled behind a statuesque defence, with two defenders failing to intervene and Costa following suit behind them. Their aversion to the ball left Mané with a simple tap-in at the back post for his fifth goal in five appearances against the Portuguese side.

The third stemmed from the aggression and vision of Jones when he dispossessed Sérgio Oliveira and ran at a retreating backline. He threaded a pass through a disorganised defensive unit to the unmarked Salah, who had time to control and pick his spot under the exposed Costa. Klopp then began to ring the changes with Manchester City’s visit to Anfield on Sunday in mind.

Mehdi Taremi stole in ahead of Joe Gomez, one of Liverpool’s five substitutes, to head Fabio Vieira’s cross past Alisson but Liverpool’s superiority was quickly restored when Firmino introduced himself with two goals in six minutes. His first was rolled into an empty net from distance after Costa needlessly raced out of his area as the substitute chased Jones’ ball down the channel and collected first. The keeper sprinted back in a desperate attempt to claw the ball off the line but was just too late.

Firmino’s second followed a lengthy VAR review having initially been disallowed for offside when Jones’ shot deflected into the Brazilian’s path off Fabio Cardoso. Liverpool’s current No 9 sank to his knees and pointed to the skies when the goal was eventually awarded.

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