Midfield shines as Reds show “maturity” for extraordinary double – Media on Liverpool 2–0 Porto

10 April 2019

The media felt Liverpool’s maturity shone through in the 2-0 first-leg win over Porto and praised Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita’s performances.


The Reds cruised to a comfortable victory at Anfield to take firm control of the quarter-final tie and big step towards the final four.

Naby Keita’s second goal in as many games and a Roberto Firmino tap-in ensured Liverpool built a healthy lead to take to Portugal for the second-leg.

It was a good night’s work but it’s only half of the job done, and a big performance will be required to finish the task in Porto next Wednesday.

Before attention turns to that make-or-break return clash, and indeed Chelsea’s Anfield visit on Sunday, here’s how the media assessed the 2-0 win.

 

The media praised Liverpool for producing mature and controlled performance to ensure a smooth night…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 9, 2019: Liverpool players line-up before the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

TIA’s Joel Rabinowitz labelled the performance a “highly professional first leg”:

Overall, this was a highly professional first-leg performance which puts Liverpool firmly in control of the tie ahead of the return trip to Portugal.

The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe thought it wasn’t a trademark European night, but put this down to Liverpool ensuring it didn’t become such a contest:

It was loud and dynamic enough when it needed to be, just incomparable to those nights against Roma and Manchester City.

That is not a criticism, more another example of the growth of this Liverpool side, controlling the pace of the game in the second half as Porto attempted to create an end-to-end, frantic encounter.

The Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle felt the Reds showed their maturity by coming out with a clean sheet despite enduring some nervy moments:

But, as against Bayern, the clean sheet was something with which Klopp will be hugely encouraged, a further example of how his team have matured since those whirlwind nights of 12 months ago.

The Guardian’s Paul Wilson thought that Liverpool’s controlled second half was wise and done with a thought ahead to Sunday’s clash with Chelsea:

That is not to mention the small matter of Chelsea on Sunday and a resumption of the title race with Manchester City, because Klopp would actually prefer it that way.

On a comical note, Doyle thought the Reds’ business-like approach was illustrated by Roberto Firmino actually looking for his tap-in:

The Brazilian wanted to make sure there were no mistakes, no silly errors. Not the time, then, for one of his famed no-look finishes.

That sense of professionalism, of getting the job done, epitomised a Liverpool performance that has put them in the boxseat in their Champions League quarter-final tie against Porto.

Meanwhile, Bascombe believes Liverpool can pull off a dream double:

A European and domestic double to put Klopp on the same pedestal as Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan looks increasingly plausible.

[…]

We should not underestimate Klopp’s ability to navigate this club through knockout rounds. Every time he has led the club in Uefa competition they have reached the final.

 

Reporters were impressed with various aspects of the performance and looked ahead to the second-leg…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 9, 2019: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino scores the second goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Bascombe was in awe of how Liverpool won while under the pressure of growing possibility of an incredible double:

Winning with the promise of more to come bodes well for Liverpool’s extraordinary dual ambition.

Writing for Goal.com, Neil Jones assessed that Liverpool’s “superior energy, quality and fitness” shone through:

Sergio Conceicao hoped his team had learned the lessons of their round of 16 hammering last February, but the Portuguese champions had no answer to Liverpool’s superior energy, quality and fitness.

TIA’s Karl Matchett thought a big plus-point was the Reds’ clinical finishing:

That, as much as Mariga missing chance after chance, made it all the more vital that a couple of good chances were tucked away early on.

[…]

A two-goal lead could prove all the difference in the second leg—and unlike in the last round, Porto didn’t nab an away goal this time.

The Mail’s Ian Ladyman noted how Liverpool’s big threat now comes from long passes from deep to forward runners thanks to the range of passing even from defensive players:

Liverpool were more deadly and earned their advantage on the back of some superb mid-range passing.

[…]

But as we saw in Munich in the last round – when Virgil van Dijk created the first goal for Sadio Mane from 40 yards – they are equally dangerous with balls played inside and over the top of defenders from deeper.

Matchett saw value in the clean sheet, given Liverpool’s second-half drop-off and thought it showed that intensity needs to be retained before any irreversible damage is done:

A third goal would have been extremely welcome, to really settle any second-leg nerves and perhaps boost the chances of one or two being rested in Porto, but the Reds’ attacking play fizzled out in the second half.

Even against an inferior team, raising the tempo after a slow spell can be difficult and Liverpool rarely looked like scoring in the second 45.

Wilson backed Liverpool to perform better away from home:

If this was not quite the emphatic statement Liverpool have come to expect on home European nights it should not be forgotten that the best performance in the last round was the one away from home after a goalless draw and that they stand on the verge of a second successive appearance in the Champions League last four.

Matchett thinks that the displays of those who entered the starting XI means Klopp is now facing the toughest selection of the season against Chelsea:

Add in the aforementioned names finding form, and indeed finding roles in the team, and Jurgen Klopp may just have his most difficult team selection of the season coming up to make against Chelsea.

 

There was praise for the midfield and in particular the form of Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 9, 2019: Liverpool's Naby Keita during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jones was impressed with Liverpool’s new-look midfield and thinks the balance works well:

Liverpool’s midfield has been a bone of contention this season, with some supporters bemoaning its lack of flair and others, Klopp included, appreciating its solidity and reliability.

But suddenly, with Keita roaming and with Jordan Henderson re-emerging as a high-energy No.8, it came alive.

The Independent’s Jack Rathborn thinks Klopp’s decision to prioritise midfield movement ahead of creativity is paying off:

With Fabinho providing both resistance and efficiency on the ball at the base of the midfield, Klopp is able to emphasise off-the-ball movement from his other two midfielders.

And Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita provided it in heaps to open up passing lanes, the former in particular was able to move on to the ball at pace, giving himself time to pick out Trent Alexander-Arnold in the build-up to Roberto Firmino’s goal.

The Telegraph’s Tom Morgan thought Henderson delivered a true captain’s performance, explaining how the skipper shone in his advanced role and inspired his teammates:

As ever this would be another night of cajoling, encouraging gestures for those around him from Henderson, but this was a fixture when perhaps his own performance mattered most.

[…]

There were no cupped-eared, explosive celebrations to match the drama on Friday, but this was Henderson back in the side showing he could control the tempo.

The Independent’s Simon Hughes believes Henderson should have played this role more often as he can offer the midfield runs needed to support the attack:

It does make you wonder why Klopp has not tried him there more often because his running and aggression helps Liverpool’s attackers, who have needed more support from midfield since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fell to his knees and was ruled out for a year.

Standard Sport’s David Lynch saw an improvement in Keita’s defensive performance from Southampton, and thought it showed how the Guinean could be the complete midfielder:

The Guinean pressed brilliantly, tracked runners, and showed himself to be the complete midfielder Klopp believed he was getting last summer.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 9, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Elsewhere, Bascombe saw positive signs that Fabinho and Henderson can form an effective partnership:

Liverpool played with an authoritative calm, especially in the second half; midfield due Fabinho and Jordan Henderson suggesting they can be a complementary partnership.

Mirror’s Andy Dunn singled out James Milner for praise:

In the Reds’ gallop towards last year’s Champions League final and in their stellar, league-leading domestic efforts this season, there has not been a more sung, unsung hero than James Milner.

His value to Klopp’s operation has long been understood, but this gave everyone another nudge.

Matchett was in awe of Roberto Firmino’s “stupendous performance”:

A stupendous performance from the Liverpool No. 9, plain and simple.

Firmino was at his finest in this game: link man, creator, work horse and predatory presence, doing the job of at least two players and to an all-round level that few are capable of.

More from This Is Anfield


Fan Comments