FC Porto are a decent side – they’re top of the Portuguese league this season with a game in hand and coordinated their way through a tricky Champions League group that also included Red Bull Leipzig and Monaco – but Liverpool made exceptionally light work of them last night, recording a 5-0 win at Estadio do Dragao.
It was a blistering attacking performance that saw all members of Liverpool’s front three find the net – in most instances, in incredibly pomp fashion – and essentially puts the Reds into the quarter-finals of the Champions League excepting an incredible turnaround in the second leg at Anfield next month.
But Jurgen Klopp might find himself most pleased this morning with how Liverpool performed at the opposite end of the pitch. The Reds’ defensive frailties have been discussed continuously during the German’s time at the club but Liverpool now boast three consecutive clean sheets away from home in all competitions – which is half of all the clean sheets they’ve managed on the road during the entire campaign.
And central to that last night was January signing Virgil van Dijk, who performed both aspects of his dual role for Liverpool exceptionally well. Klopp hasn’t invested in the Dutchman simply to improve Liverpool’s defensive solidity, but also to help retain possession and build attacks from the back with his quality on the ball.
Although Porto did make chances early on, the Netherlands international’s dominance eventually shone through, making three tackles, three interceptions, five clearances and blocking one shot at goal while winning two aerial duels.
In addition to that though, van Dijk made the most passes and had the most touches of the ball of any player on the pitch.
Van Dijk hasn’t wholly convinced since arriving at Anfield, especially in light of his gigantic price-tag with Transfermarkt valuing him at £45million – around £30million less than what Liverpool actually paid Southampton. But the 26-year-old was at his best last night and Liverpool’s flurry of goals at the other end only highlighted the importance of the platform he provides from the heart of defence.