Liverpool wore black armbands in honour of Roger Hunt and paid their departed former striker the finest tribute possible with another ruthless, relentless rout of Porto. Jürgen Klopp’s team are coasting through a supposedly complicated Champions League group.
Porto gathered en masse in the centre circle after the end of their latest humiliation at the hands of Liverpool but what words of comfort their coach, Sérgio Conceição, could muster are hard to imagine. He has now lost 5-1, 4-1 and 5-0 in his three home meetings with Klopp’s team in the Champions League. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino were once again on target as the Premier League leaders took a firm grip on the summit of Group B.
Liverpool controlled the first half without truly exerting themselves, such was the ease with which they exchanged passes under minimal pressure and picked holes in a hesitant, anxious Porto rearguard. Their troubles were not on the field of play.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was absent with a groin problem that, as Klopp conceded, “does not look great for the Manchester City game [on Sunday] as well.” His place was taken by 35-year-old James Milner.
Porto started with energy, as they had in the previous home beatings by Klopp’s team. In other parallels with Liverpool’s 5-0 and 4-1 victories here in 2018 and 2019 respectively, their bright opening and the backing of the home crowd were both extinguished once Klopp’s team began to dominate possession. Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané combined regularly to punishing effect down the left.
Porto, in fairness, were not helped by losing their captain, 38-year-old Pepe, to a recurrence of a leg injury during the warm-up and right-winger Otávio to another injury with merely 14 minutes gone.
Liverpool silenced the crowd courtesy of a gift from Porto’s goalkeeper Diogo Costa. Curtis Jones cut in from the left and dispatched an instant, dipping shot from the corner of the penalty area that Costa parried straight out on to Zaidu Sanusi.
The unwitting left-back was still trying to figure out why his keeper had not pushed the ball away to safety when Salah, lurking on his shoulder, bundled the ball over the line from close range. It was the Egypt international’s sixth goal in his past seven Champions League games and his 28th in 47 for Liverpool overall.
Costa was also culpable for Liverpool’s second goal, which arrived following a period of sustained pressure in which Jota had a shot tipped over and Jones waltzed through the Porto midfield before having an effort saved.
It was only a matter of time until the hosts’ fragile resistance was broken again and Milner, following his instructions to deputise for Alexander-Arnold to the letter, was the architect with a sweeping, precision cross from the right.
Jones did well to keep the ball in play before Fabinho found Milner in acres of room on the opposite flank. His low cross curled behind a statuesque defence, with two defenders failing to intervene and Costa following suit behind them. Their aversion to the ball left Mané with a simple tap-in at the back post for his fifth goal in as many appearances against the Portuguese side.
Sérgio Conceição introduced former Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic for striker Toni Martínez at half time and made two further substitutions 10 minutes later. To no avail. Liverpool continued to slice down the flanks unchallenged and his defence simply disintegrated, to the obvious and audible disgust of the whistling Porto fans.
Jota almost capitalised on a careless defensive error shortly after the restart, forcing Costa to intervene with his legs, and the Portugal international tested the keeper on the half-volley after Iván Marcano had failed to deal with a long ball into the heart of the Porto defence.
The third goal stemmed from the aggression and vision of Jones, aided by more dreadful defending, when the Liverpool midfielder dispossessed Sérgio Oliveira and ran at a retreating backline. He threaded a pass through a scattered, disorganised defensive unit to the unmarked Salah, who had time to control and pick his spot under the exposed Costa. Klopp then began to ring the changes.
Mehdi Taremi stole in ahead of Joe Gomez, one of Liverpool’s five substitutes, to steer Fabio Vieira’s cross past Alisson with a diving header but Liverpool’s superiority was quickly restored to the scoreline when Firmino introduced himself to the fray. His first was rolled slowly from distance past Costa, who needlessly raced out of his goal when the Liverpool substitute chased a through ball and left his goal exposed.
The keeper desperately sprinted back to stop Firmino’s shot trickling in but it crossed the line before he clawed the ball clear. Firmino’s second followed a lengthy VAR review having initially been disallowed for offside when Jones’ shot deflected into the Brazilian’s path off Fabio Cardoso. Firmino sank to his knees and pointed to the skies when the goal was given.