It ultimately became a night that was illuminated by Thiago’s goal, but until it arrived Liverpool weren’t fully at the races against Porto.
That was to be entirely expected of course.
The Reds had left several of their big-hitters on a bench that much have been the strongest in the club’s history, featuring five members of the club’s ‘leadership group’ as well as two of their best players in Saturday’s win over Arsenal in Fabinho and Diogo Jota.
You can do such things when you’re on top of your Champions League group with four wins from four, and already assured of qualifying for the last-16 as group winners.
Reds assistant boss Pep Lijnders is fond of repeating the mantra that Liverpool’s intensity is their identity, but surely even he could have allowed the squad to look a little unlike themselves for some of this cold November night.
And that’s where Luis Diaz began to punish them.
The 24-year-old Colombian was terrific for Porto in the first half at Anfield, roaming across to the left and then drifting in at pace from that position to make Neco Williams’ rare start an uncomfortable one to begin with.
The Welshman eventually handled him well, and deserves to be pleased with the clean sheet that Liverpool kept – as do fellow fringe defenders Ibrahima Konate and Kostas Tsimikas, who hasn’t seen the Reds concede a goal in the eight matches he’s started this season in all competitions.
Diaz was the biggest threat to that record at Anfield, and it surely would have ended if his teammates Mehdi Taremi and Otavio had been as forceful in front of goal as their teammate was down the left.
He had Anfield alerted, but Diaz isn’t an unknown quantity.
The Colombian shared the Golden Boot with Lionel Messi at this year’s Copa America after scoring four times, and he’s netted 11 times for Porto already this season.
At 24 he looks to be a player entering the years when he could really explode, and Klopp is sure to have taken notice of him as he ran and ran at the Liverpool defence in the first half.
The Reds boss has history when it comes to snapping up players who impress against Liverpool in the Champions League at Anfield, as anyone who fondly remembers Takumi Minamino’s 2019 display for Salzburg can attest to, and as the contract issues persist around the more established front three ahead of Minamino in the Reds pecking order, Diaz surely has to be considered as Klopp looks to reduce the average age of his squad.
The player’s agent Carlos van Strahalen knows interest is rife, recently saying: “It’s normal.
“If a player plays well, if he starts to stand out, if the majority considers him the best player in the Portuguese League, if he’s the top scorer and is making a high-level Champions League, that interest is normal.”
Diaz’s performance wasn’t normal, and it is one that Liverpool should take notice of.