Liverpool 2-0 Porto – Hendo Slays Dragões
The Reds have done the business again.
They’ve put one foot in the last 4 of the champions league without breaking a sweat. The ability of these footballers to make such a high-profile match look like a procession should not be overlooked, but it certainly will be. We started the game with such bravery, allowing Porto to make the first move, see how they approach the game so we can counteract it. What did happen was a very fortuitous goal for young Naby and we build on it.
Liverpool sense blood and collectively pounce on the Portuguese outfit, not letting them breathe until we have a second. The key to this was the effectiveness of the midfield. Their energy in closing down the opposition forced Porto into errors time and time again.
Porto were stuck between a rock and a hard place. “Do we try play ball and open up against these, when they are far better, stronger, fitter and more organised than us? Or do we sit back and shut up shop, an approach that we’ve never used under this manager and are vastly inexperienced and unprepared in?”
Unsurprisingly they try and match us and get nowhere near.
They have no time or space on the ball which comes as a huge shock to a side that’s won 22 in 28 in their own league.
Henderson told us in a post-match interview after Southampton that he’d been knocking on Jurgen’s door. He convinced the gaffer that he can play a more advanced role, alongside Fabinho and not instead of him or vice versa. We have seen this partnership before in a 4-2-3-1 away to Wolves in arguably our best away performance of the season.
It shone again on Tuesday night, with the captain being the standout. His energy and pressure that he imposed on the opposition players was visibly affecting them and forcing them into errors. His touch, vision and passing gave Liverpool the springboard to attack and punish the gaps left by a flustered Porto defence. The combination on the right-hand side of Henderson, Trent and Salah caused mayhem up against the highly rated Alex Telles and Real Madrid bound Eder Militao, who did well to ensure the tie was not over by half time.
The pass for the second was exquisite. He waits and waits for the gap and plays it inside the full back, bringing Trent inside the box with acres of space. The weight of the pass is also sublime, with Trent not having to adjust stride at all and able to hit first time giving the Porto backline no time to react and get in shape. It is on a plate and cut up into neat little chunks for Bobby and he will score.
The second half was a controlled performance from the captain and his troops. With Chelsea on Sunday, a 2-0 victory while expending little energy seemed to be something they were all happy with. The Reds still probed and forced Porto back, but were not by any means desperate and willing to threaten their defensive solidity to grab the third.
It was a clever tactic given the danger an away goal brings. At 2-1, Porto are firmly back in the tie. However, as it stands if Liverpool score just once in Portugal, the Dragoes need 4, which just seems like too big a hill to climb.
Henderson continued to tick the ball over second half but the result was mutually accepted, they didn’t want another drumming. Interestingly, Henderson created more chances (3) and played more final third passes (22) than any other player on the pitch. To be this effective in his first start in this role in years is truly impressive.
The boys get to return to Anfield on Sunday against a Chelsea side that have been woeful away from home recently but could produce a stubborn performance if they feel like it. The positives are they played on Monday and again on Thursday before their trip to Liverpool and that we can beat anyone on our day. This little break from the title race has done us good and added to our momentum giving us a proper run of 6 wins from 6. Our tails are up and there is no reason not to be confident. In other news, Manchester City will have to bounce back from midweek disappointment away at Palace. It won’t be easy but they are not invincible.