Second-half strikes from Thiago and Mohamed Salah saw Liverpool ease past Porto as they won 2-0 and kept on course for a perfect Champions League group stage.
Heading into the game, Liverpool had already qualified as Group B winners, but Jurgen Klopp made just four changes from the weekend’s victory against Arsenal and handed a European debut to 19-year-old Tyler Morton.
Porto began quickly and the complexion of the match could have been so different if Otavio had fired home a glorious chance in the 12th minute. Liverpool also had the ball in the net in the first half, but Sadio Mane’s strike was ruled out by VAR for offside.
6 – Mohamed Salah has scored six goals in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, the joint-most any Reds player has scored in a single group stage, equalling Roberto Firmino’s six goals in 2017-18. Talisman.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 24, 2021
It took just seven minutes for the hosts to take the lead after half-time thanks to a wonderful half-volleyed strike from Thiago. After another goal was ruled out for offside – Takumi Minamino’s effort flagged – Salah fired home his 17th goal in 17 games to make it five wins in five in the group stage so far for Liverpool.
As for Porto, their quest for the knockout rounds was helped by AC Milan’s late win against Atletico Madrid in Group B’s other game, meaning all three teams will battle it out for the final last-16 place in two weeks’ time.
Liverpool continue fine European form
Porto dominated the opening exchanges at a packed-out Anfield, and should have taken the lead in the 12th minute. It was a superb break from Luis Diaz after Ibrahima Konate was caught in possession. He drove into the box, squaring the ball for Otavio, but he lashed his effort wide – Kostas Tsimikas putting him under pressure. There was VAR check for a penalty, but nothing was given.
But soon after, Porto lost their captain Pepe to injury, with the Portugal international having only just returned to the starting XI. It handed Liverpool a chance to apply some pressure, but it was wayward passing from goalkeeper Diogo Costa that almost allowed them through.
Liverpool: Alisson (6), Williams (6), Matip (7), Konate (7), Tsimikas (7), Morton (7), Thiago (8), Oxlade-Chamberlain (7), Mane (7), Salah (7), Minamino (6).
Subs used: Henderson (7), Robertson (7), Origi (5), Fabinho (6), Milner (n/a).
Porto: Diogo Costa (5), Joao Mario (6), Pepe (6), Mbemba (6), Sanusi (6), Otavio (6), Uribe (6), Oliveira (6), Diaz (7), Evanilson (6), Taremi (6).
Subs used: Cardoso (7), Conceicao (5), Vitinha (5), Grujic (n/a), Martinez (n/a).
Man of the match: Thiago.
First, one of his kicks hit Mane in the face, landing in front of Salah, but the latter’s effort was scooped up by Costa. Then, his poor pass out from the back went straight to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who slotted Salah through. However, he was well offside, having been caught out by the speed of the situation.
Liverpool thought they had taken the lead shortly before the break. Thiago slotted Mane through into the area, with the forward afforded far too much time and space. He easily slotted home into the far corner, but after a VAR check, the goal was ruled out for the tightest of offsides.
- Liverpool made four changes from the side that beat Arsenal at the weekend. Academy graduate Tyler Morton made his Champions League debut, with Neco Williams, Ibrahima Konate and Takumi Minamino also coming into the XI.
- Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Diogo Jota dropped to the bench, with James Milner, Andy Robertson and Divock Origi returning among the substitutes.
Both sides saw more half-efforts fall their way. A lovely swinging cross from Neco Williams pinged wide off of Takumi Minamino’s head – with the offside flag up again – before Mehdi Taremi’s cross from the right was superbly cleared by Champions League debutant Tyler Morton.
Just seven minutes after the break and after more skewed efforts from Porto, Liverpool took the lead. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s free-kick was well cleared, but only fell as far as Thiago. He ran onto the ball before sending a fizzing, low strike through a packed area and into the back of the net.
Liverpool continued to go close to a second. Oxlade-Chamberlain sent an effort just wide, before Minamino had the ball in the back of the net, but again found himself flagged for offside.
It was Salah who did double the hosts’ lead with 20 minutes to play. A wonderful give-and-go between Jordan Henderson and Salah down the right ended with the Liverpool captain sending the forward through into the area. Salah dinked past Mateus Uribe’s challenge before slotting home into the bottom corner.
Liverpool dominated the final 20 minutes as they comfortably saw out the game at Anfield, continuing their superb form in the Champions League this season.
Man of the match – Thiago
A superb goal from the midfielder, who followed up a good showing against Arsenal with another on Tuesday. He is finally starting to show the Liverpool fans just what a talented player he is.
What the managers said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told BT Sport: “It was good. We could have done better, we could have been calmer in the first half especially with our potentially goalscoring situations. We were a bit hectic. It’s not unusual when you put a team together that has not played together all the time.
“But you could see in these situations, the desire of the boys to win the game. Some people may have thought we might have played an easy game, but we’re not here for that. If Anfield is sold out, it means we want to go and that’s what we did.
“We won the game with two exceptional goals, especially Thiago’s – wow.
“So many good things happened tonight individually. Players could get minutes, confidence, rhythm and all these things, nobody got hurt. Our head of rehab gave Milly [James Milner] 15 minutes, and I think he played 12 or 13. Hendo and Robbo came on which is good.
“The right players could be rested. For Trent, I think it’s right that he doesn’t play constantly and for Virgil as well.
“If you are in our squad, you are a good football player. I’ve been long enough in this business that I would not throw a player in the game when I think he is not ready for it.
“With Tyler, some people might have been surprised and he did exceptionally well. He was fit and there was no need to rest him, and I’m really pleased for him that he could put a performance like this in.”
Porto coach Sergio Conceicao said: “I think it was an unfortunate game for us for what we prepared the players for. We created more than enough opportunities to be winning in the first half; we had three or four with which we should have been more efficient.”
- Liverpool have won their first five Champions League group stage games for the first time, scoring 15 goals. Only in 2017/18 have the Reds scored more goals at this stage in the competition (16).
- Mohamed Salah has scored six goals in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, the joint-most any Liverpool player has scored in a single group stage, equalling Roberto Firmino’s six goals in 2017-18.
- Three of Liverpool midfielder Thiago’s nine goals in the Champions League have been against Porto. Tonight’s was his first goal in the competition since April 2018 when he scored for Bayern Munich in a 2-1 win against Sevilla.
Liverpool return to Premier League action on Saturday, hosting Southampton; kick-off 3pm. Their final Champions League group game will be on Tuesday 7 December with a trip to AC Milan.
Porto host Vitoria in the Primeira Liga on Sunday, before hosting Atletico Madrid in their final Champions League group game.