John Gibbons: First leg job done but could it have been more?

Liverpool took care of Porto in the first leg last season when they won 5-0, so fans might have been expecting more on Tuesday night.



After weeks of late winners, mad performances and games that should have come with a subscription of valium, many Liverpool fans were left crying out for a nice dull victory that didn’t require a visit to the doctors for a check up after. Last night we got one, a 2-0 with both goals before half time and very little happening after, and it couldn’t help but feel like a bit of anti-climax. Football fans hey. You can’t please them.

Of course, there are a few things at play here to excuse why we aren’t more cock-a-hoop about winning a Champions League Quarter Final 2-0, and not just a bunch of spoilt Reds who need to remember we weren’t even in Europe two years ago, never mind the Champions League. Firstly we beat them 5-0 away in the Champions League knockouts last season so have mostly decided, regardless of any other evidence or changes to the team in that time, that they are a bit rubbish. Truth is that was a mad game in even madder weather than both teams had chances in and Liverpool scored all of theirs.

But you still think it don’t you? “Come on, we battered these last time”.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – APRIL 09: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Liverpool and Porto at Anfield on April 09, 2019 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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There is also the perhaps more understandable feeling that we could have put the tie to bed and maybe rested a few for the away leg. Liverpool are still in a great position in the tie, of course, and will be strong favourites to go through. But the next week ahead in Chelsea on Sunday, Porto away on Wednesday and then a trip to Cardiff the weekend after. The result of the home leg leaves it in a way that we probably have to go as strong as possible out in Portugal, as an early Porto goal makes the whole thing a bit more nervy.

That’s not to say the manager didn’t try and add to Liverpool’s goals. Jurgen Klopp brought on Origi and Daniel Sturridge in an attempt to freshen it up in attack, and use two lads who would be desperate for a Champions League goal, but it didn’t make much difference. Everyone on the pitch just seemed to have decided that 2-0 was the result. From Porto’s point of view they had competed much better than last time, from Liverpool’s point of view a good lead and clean sheet to take away from home. Everyone seemed happy enough.

I suppose I shouldn’t really complain about fixture congestion at all since Chelsea play on Thursday night before our game on Sunday. They will presumably go fairly strong in that game, as Maurizio Sarri attempts to remind everyone that he is actually a good manager by trying to win the Europa League. That said, Sarri could rotate heavily on Sunday and it would only make me more nervous, considering that’s what happened in April 2014 when they changed the whole team and still won. In fact if Sarri wants to spook the home fans, the best thing he could do is start Demba Ba.

Jokes aside, so much has changed at Liverpool in the last five years that I can’t see that game being on anyone’s minds much come Sunday. In fact bizarrely the only Liverpool player who is likely to start both games is Mo Salah, who played 60 minutes for Chelsea before getting hooked for Willian. So I doubt he has particularly fond memories of the day either.

No, the real relevant bogey man for Liverpool is Eden Hazard, who warmed up for his annual World Class performance at Anfield with a two-goal man of the match performance against West Ham on Monday. Which was nice of him.

I honestly don’t know how to take Eden Hazard’s Anfield form. Is it a compliment or does he really hate Liverpool?

He revealed recently he is mates with Mo Salah, which I find a bit mad, as I’m not sure when they are meeting up. Maybe there is a boss footy players club somewhere that none of us are invited to where they all go and talk about how boss they are at footy. If at the next one Mo Salah could have a word and ask Hazard not to turn into Lionel Messi every time he goes in the L4 postcode, that would be brilliant. In fact he can do what he likes at Goodison Park.

But anyway. We’ve got Virgil Van Djik. Footballer of the Year to everyone except the Man City team who have all voted for the Southampton side of 1998 instead. It might seem petty or tactical, but I happen to know that Sergio Aguero is a long time admirer of Francis Benali and wants him to finally get the credit he deserves. So Virgil might not win that one. But I don’t he’ll care too much as long as he wins one of the big shiny ones in May. I promise I won’t complain about a boring 2-0 on Sunday. Scouts honour.

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What do you think?