Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp savoured the perfect performance as his side all but secured their place in the Champions League quarter-finals after annihilating Porto in their last-16 first-leg clash.
It was the usual suspects who spearheaded Liverpool’s assault as Sadio Mane chalked up a hat-trick – the first Reds player since Michael Owen in 2002 to score a treble away from home in Europe – and Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino also registered.
Such a riotous showing, in what was their maiden Champions League knockout game for nine years, propelled Liverpool to the top of the goalscoring charts in this season’s competition and ensured the second leg on 6 March should be a mere formality.
Asked if Liverpool had completed the perfect job, Klopp, who will lead his squad on a warm-weather training trip to Marbella today, said: “Yes. You can say that of course.
“It was very professional, very mature in the right moments, very aggressive, good defending, good counter-attacking, keeping the ball, moving them around. In this game it was possible, usually it’s not that easy.
“It was hard work but at the end the boys enjoyed the work and that’s the most important thing. I saw a lot of fantastic performances tonight. A result like this is only possible if they are all really spot on.
“They all performed and of course Sadio is man of the match with three fantastic goals but Roberto Firmino’s work rate was again outstanding. They all did well and that is the only way to be successful.”
The only previous time Liverpool had played Porto in the knockout stage of a European competition was in 2000-01 when the Reds prevailed 2-0 on aggregate in the Uefa Cup quarter-finals and proceeded to win the tournament.
With promising omens, Liverpool set about their modern-day hunt for silverware and took a 25th-minute lead as Mane’s low shot squirmed beyond Porto goalkeeper Jose Sa following a barging run from Georginio Wijnaldum.
Their lead was doubled moments later as James Milner’s shot struck the post and rebounded to Salah, who showed considerable composure to dink the ball over Sa and calmly find an unguarded net – his 30th goal of the season.
The visitors made it three eight minutes after the restart as an effort from Firmino, having linked with Salah, was parried by Sa into the path of Mane and the Senegal forward duly obliged in applying a simple finish.
Another sweeping Liverpool move ended with Firmino slamming home Milner’s cross as the game approached the final 20 minutes, while in the dying embers Mane added further gloss by completing his hat-trick as he thrashed a 20-yard effort beyond Sa.