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Sadio Mane scored a hat-trick, while Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino also found the net, as Liverpool thrashed Porto 5-0 in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie at the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday night.
Porto were without injured star striker Vincent Aboubakar, while Jose Sa replaced decorated 36-year-old Iker Casillas in goal. Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson came into midfield to skipper the side for Liverpool:
UEFA Champions League @ChampionsLeague
LINE-UPS: here are the starting XIs for @FCPorto & @LFC…
Home or away win? #UCL https://t.co/aTRAXLaVsI
The hosts went close on nine minutes when Otavio’s shot was deflected narrowly over the bar. It was a warning sign for Liverpool, who were going to be under scrutiny at the back.
Liverpool responded to the chance with typical pace and flowing football on the break. Firmino was combining well with Mane and Salah, while left-back Andrew Robertson provided plenty of width on the overlap.
The final pass was often letting the visitors down, though, with Mane failing to tee up Georginio Wijnaldum for a tap-in. Mane soon made amends, though, when he got in behind again and saw his low shot squirm under goalkeeper Sa for a priceless away goal.
Sa should have done better, but football writer David Preece offered some sympathy:
David Preece @davidpreece12
Strange goal to concede by Porto’s Jose Sa. Even he’ll be wondering what happened. Ball clearly bends inside his grasp and it’s an awkward area to readjust to once you’re committed to the dive.
It was 2-0 Liverpool on 29 minutes when James Milner crashed a shot off the inside of the post, leaving Salah to deftly turn in the rebound after some smart skill.
The finish marked a milestone goal for Salah, in what has been a prolific first season with Liverpool, per Squawka Football:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Mohamed Salah has now scored 30 goals in all competitions this season for Liverpool:
Premier League (22)
FA Cup (1)
Champions League (7)
No stopping him. https://t.co/0qeJjgddNY
Porto almost had a response before half-time when Yacine Brahimi played in Francisco Soares, but Aboubakar’s replacement shot just wide with Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius beaten.
Porto tried to force the issue after the break, but Liverpool needed just eight minutes to score a third. It came when Firmino was played through by Salah, with Sa parrying the striker’s shot and Mane putting in the rebound.
The goal was a superb break between Liverpool’s fleet-footed front three, who sped from one end of the pitch to the other, combining brilliantly thanks to some wonderful touches.
Luis Vieira/Associated Press
Firmino made it four after superb work from Mane released the tireless Milner, who rolled across for the Brazilian to slot in.
It was Firmino’s last contribution, as the gifted No. 9 soon made way for Danny Ings, while Joe Gomez came on for Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Mane hammered in his hat-trick goal in the 85th minute to effectively end the tie before the second leg at Anfield. The finish underlined Liverpool as the standout attacking force on the continent, per OptaJoe:
28 – Liverpool have scored more goals than any other team in the Champions League this season, with 25 of those goals coming across their last five games. Update.
Liverpool deserve the plaudits for producing a comprehensive display at one of Europe’s most difficult venues. With their pace and fluidity up front, the Reds are a threat to any side left in this competition.