“They look more than worthy members of Europe’s elite” – Media praise Liverpool for sealing quarter-final place

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The media believe Liverpool have proved they are worthy of being among Europe’s elite again after breezing into the Champions League quarter-finals.

The Reds finished the job started in Portugal three weeks ago to eliminate Porto and reach the last eight for the first time since 2009.

An uneventful goalless draw played out at Anfield but it proved enough to seal progression after the 5-0 lead established in the stunning first-leg proved insurmountable.

The Reds simply cruised through the tie and Klopp will be pleased with the way his team navigated the return leg with the minimum of fuss ahead of a crucial showdown with Man United.

Before attention turns to that Old Trafford clash, here’s what the media made of a straightforward night at Anfield.

 

Post-match reports featured plenty of comments on Liverpool’s performance in the competition so far

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, March 5, 2018: Liverpool's Emre Can battles with FC Portoís AndrÈ AndrÈ and Bruno Costa during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Firstly, and quite comically, the Independent’s Mark Critchley felt the game presented an argument for second-leg byes to be introduced:

This goalless draw was a strange game, not so much a football match but an argument for automatic byes when one team finds themselves in such a commanding position after playing the first leg away from home.

The BBC’s Emma Sanders eulogised over Liverpool’s effortless passage to this last eight:

They have cantered into the quarter-finals – barely hitting second gear – and now they eye the prize of a place in the last four.

The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe believes Klopp’s side have shown why they are a team no potential opponent will want to face:

The attention now turns to the quarter-final, Klopp and Liverpool asked to consider which side they would most like to avoid. A raucous Anfield will be bottom of the wanted list of every other side.

The Independent’s Simon Hughes believes the Reds’ comfortable progress has been driven by a change in approach from Jurgen Klopp in challenging the Reds to perform:

There has been a clear change in approach over the last few weeks, unseen in his reign – especially since the Liverpool squad returned from a mid-season break in Marbella. Whereas before he made every effort to relieve his team of pressure, now he seems determined to increase it: to maintain momentum and establish standards.

ESPN’s Glenn Price rightly assessed how the Reds’ fine form while pushing for second place in the Premier League could also help launch a serious challenge in Europe:

Given other rivals’ struggles and Liverpool continually solidifying their place in the top four, Klopp may well be able to concentrate more on the Champions League in the closing weeks of the season.

Bascombe also noted how the Reds’ illustrious history increases pressure to succeed in Europe, but feels Klopp’s side are ready to emerge and write their own history:

By becoming the first Liverpool team to reach the quarter-final since 2009, this team is already in a position to create new memories without the compulsion to summon the spirit of others.

And as belief steadily increases over the Reds chances, the Liverpool Echo’s Andy Kelly noted some interesting omens:

And make no mistake, this could be one of those great European campaigns.

There are plenty of good omens too, not least the fact the only two other times they have won in Portugal – against Benfica in 1978 and 1984 – they went on to lift the European Cup.

 

After the Reds made the last eight for the first time since 2009, reporters reflected on the journey back to Europe’s elite

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, March 5, 2018: Liverpool's players line up for a team group photograph before the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto at Anfield. Back row L-R: goalkeeper Loris Karius, Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Emre Can, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané. Front Row L-R: Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, James Milner. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Sanders praised Liverpool’s performances on return to the competition and labelled the Reds “more than worthy members of Europe’s elite”:

Four more years on, Liverpool are back. And this time they look more than worthy members of Europe’s elite.

Price discussed the Reds’ development since the last time Porto visited Anfield, assessing how the Reds are now a much more settled club on and off the pitch:

When the Portuguese side last played at Anfield more than 10 ago, Liverpool were in the midst of a civil war. Due to displeasure at the ownership of George Gillett and Tom Hicks, nearly 2,000 Liverpool supporters marched towards Anfield in support of then-manager Rafael Benitez.

[…]

While not perfect, Liverpool are relatively settled on and off the pitch these days. It feels like it’s all beginning to click under Klopp’s management.

A nostalgic Bascombe looked back on the miracle of Istanbul, and believes Klopp is operating with a better squad than Rafa Benitez won the competition with in 2005:

So too is the luxury of resting star players such as Mohamed Salah. It is another example how this Liverpool side has far more quality and depth than the side that actually won the competition under Rafael Benítez.

 

Understandably, there was little said on individual performance, but Adam Lallana’s return was discussed

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, March 5, 2018: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto at Anfield. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

The Mirror’s David Maddock was among numerous reporters who thought Lallana impressed on his comeback, and labelled the 29-year-old “the pick of the forwards”:

Lallana was the pick of the forwards, creating chances for Firmino, Mane and Milner, and showing he has lost none of his energy and skill after such a long time out of the team.

However Price feels James Milner has surpassed Lallana in the midfield pecking order after an impressive run of form:

His [Lallana’s] 90-minute outing against Porto was much needed, but he didn’t go on to pull up any trees during it.

[…]

James Milner continued his rich vein of form in central midfield against Porto, with his willingness, experience and versatility making him one of Liverpool’s best players in recent games. Lallana’s loss has been Milner’s gain.

Maddock also noted the impressive form of all Liverpool’s midfielders, and assessed how this has now given Klopp a positive selection dilemma:

Klopp’s problem now looks who to leave out, not who to select.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was outstanding at the weekend against Newcastle, but James Milner has been equally impressive in Europe, and again here he made a decent case to be retained for the visit to Old Trafford this weekend. With Georginio Wijnaldum back for that game, the manager has an embarrassment of midfield riches, and will to have select tactically.

And Maddock felt Dejan Lovren won the battle with Joel Matip to be Virgil van Dijk’s partner at Old Trafford on Saturday:

Lovren shaded it. Matip looked a little off the pace in the opening minutes, beaten a couple of times by the flight of the ball and the movement of Vincent Aboubaker.

Lovren, on the otherhand, is benefiting from playing alongside van Dijk, and the confidence that brings. It looks Klopp’s best partnership.

Finally, ESPN’s Dave Usher was one of few journalists to discuss Liverpool’s performance on the night, and praised the Reds’ “attitude and desire”:

The attitude and desire of the players was first class. It’s always difficult to perform at full throttle in this type of situation and although the Reds were not at their brilliant best in attack, the work rate of the team and determination to keep a clean sheet will have pleased Jurgen Klopp.

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