Bore Draw Enough to See Reds Through
In the build-up to the game, great intrigue surrounded both manager’s team selections. In the end though, both managers curiously decided to rest only half of their respective teams.
This lead to only a handful of players really their hardest to impress, and resulted in a forgettable 0-0 draw.
One of the only memorable aspects of the match was the class shown be Liverpool’s supporters, and disrespect shown by Porto’s.
Liverpool fans booed the Porto fans for deliberately ruining the minute silence in homage of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, but showed their own respect by loudly applauding legendary ‘keeper Iker Casillas when he approached The Kop.
To be fair to the travelling fans, they were the first to get there and admirably sang and cheered until well after the final whistle.
Loris Karius – 7:
Another morale-boosting clean sheet for the German.
Dealt with the few things that came is way comfortably, barring one spilt shot, but there was no danger of it leading to a goal.
Joe Gomez – 6:
Good to see Gomez playing again after another unfortunate injury setback.
It’s clear that, despite a couple of good crosses and a solid performance, he doesn’t offer as much as Trent Alexander-Arnold in attack, and is less comfortable defending out wide.
Dejan Lovren – 7:
Lovren somewhat filled the role that Virgil van Dijk vacated by taking on more responsibility with the ball at his feet.
An excellent block late in the game to deny Oliver Torres was the only moment where he was truly called into action though.
Joel Matip – 6:
Matip again failed to upstage Lovren, even though he didn’t have many chances to do so.
His passing was inconsistent, but this wasn’t the type of game where his defensive merits could be judged effectively
Alberto Moreno – 7:
Moreno was a decent threat throughout the night in attack, and he kept pressing forward even after a couple of unsuccessful attempts.
His defensive work was also sound, but despite a good display, he won’t be replacing Andy Robertson anytime soon.
Jordan Henderson – 7:
His resolute defensive work was the highlight of his night, as he was fairly sporadic with his passing.
He wasted a chance to put Firmino through on goal in the first half, but in the second he linked up well with Milner, drove the ball forward and played an outstanding threaded pass to the Brazilian striker.
Emre Can – 7:
Played a more advanced role than he has done recently, but he never got out of second gear.
A cheeky nutmeg on Andre Andre gave the fans something to sing about on a mostly uneventful night.
James Milner – 7 (Man of the Match):
Milner’s quality as a football player, and not just a workhorse, has really been demonstrated over the last few weeks.
He almost scored twice as he had to stretch to reach Lallana’s pass, and also headed a Salah cross straight at Casillas.
Adam Lallana – 6:
Lallana’s first start for many months due to injury, hopefully a return to form isn’t too far away either.
His touch was typically pinpoint, but he was unable to turn his twists and turns into a genuine attacking threat.
Sadio Mane – 7:
Mane was another player who clearly took the night off for the most part.
Even so, Mane had a couple of difficult chances before he was replaced, but he was unable to get on the score sheet.
Roberto Firmino – 7:
Firmino had an unusually quiet game, but he still worked hard for the team.
Like Mane, Firmino also had a couple of chances to win the game, but his finishing wasn’t as good as it has been in previous games.
Danny Ings – 6 (on for Firmino – 62′):
It would’ve been nice to see Ings start this game.
He was lively when he came on and got into good positions, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Mo Salah – 7 (on for Mane – 75′):
Salah was given 15 minutes to try and send the fans home happy.
He created a couple of chances for his teammates, but they were unable to capitalise.
Ragnar Klavan – 5 (on for Can – 81′):
Came on to see out the game, as Klopp switched to a back three.
A poor touch and needless foul almost cost Liverpool, as Porto nearly scored from the cross. Luckily Lovren and Klavan himself were able to block the shot well.
Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Jurgen Klopp – 6:
Ultimately, Klopp must be praised for guiding the team into the quarter-finals.
However, his decision to neither rotate the entire team, nor maintain the entire team’s form was puzzling.
The likes of Ings and Dominic Solanke would’ve benefited greatly from a full 90 minutes in the Champions League, while Mane and Firmino could’ve used a rest.
Through to the Next Round
The hard work was done in Portugal, and Liverpool deservedly march onward.
Liverpool, in their current form, should fear no team, obviously matching up with a smaller side is preferable, but beating one of Europe’s elite isn’t out of the question.
Liverpool’s potential opponents include:
Tottenham (2) or (2) Juventus
Manchester City (4) or (0) Basel
Roma (1) or (2) Shakhtar Donetsk
Manchester United (0) or (0) Sevilla
Besiktas (0) or Bayern Munich (5)
Barcelona (1) or Chelsea (1)
Lack of Midfield Creativity
Of course, the easiest explanation for Liverpool’s subdued performance is the fact that they knew that their position was secured, so there was no need to push themselves too hard.
Another explanation though is a lack of drive and creativity from the midfield, Oxlade-Chamberlain was missed severly.
The Ox has grown to be a vital player for The Reds, so surely when he returns against United, Liverpool will be far more dynamic again.
United Up Next
United play their second leg game tomorrow morning, and unlike Liverpool, they don’t have the luxury of resting players due to drawing against Sevilla 0-0.
Not only will Liverpool’s players be fresher, but they’re also in better form as United have been fortunate lately to beat Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
It will certainly be the most important game of the season so far for Liverpool, and a win would be a massive step towards finishing 2nd.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 07/03/2018