Sadio Mane scores hat-trick as Reds run riot in Portugal
But the standout strike was the second from Mohamed Salah – the first Liverpool player to score 30 goals in all competitions in a single season since Luis Suarez (31) in 2013/14 – as he dinked the ball over Porto goalkeeper Jose Sa, controlled it on his head and then slotted the ball into the net.
This was also the first time the Reds have graced the knockout stages of Europe’s top competition in nine years. It was new territory for a lot of Jurgen Klopp’s side and maybe why they started tentatively on the big stage.
Klopp said before the game that he knows Liverpool can match the best in Europe. Porto do not quite fit that bracket but they do sit top of the Portuguese league as unbeaten leaders with just one defeat at home this season in the Champions League group stages.
The hosts looked promising in the open stages and only for an outstretched leg of Dejan Lovren, Otavio’s strike may have found the back of the net but it instead skimmed the roof of it.
But as the rain came down at a soaked Estadio do Dragao, the Reds soon felt right at home. Of course it was Salah who found the first opening but he was too slow to square it for Sadio Mane.
The Senegal player would have his chance in the 26th minute though when Georginio Wijnaldum managed to bundle the ball into his path. Mane’s shot was weak but he got a stroke of luck when Porto keeper Sa, starting ahead of Iker Casillas, let the ball squirm under him and it trickled into the net.
It has not been the best season for Sane so far, by the standards he set in his debut campaign at least, but that was four goals in his last three appearances in Europe – and there was another to come.
The Liverpool fans up high in the far corner of the stadium had barely stopped celebrating when the visitors grabbed a second away goal, this time thanks to the brilliance of Salah.
James Milner coasted into the area and his curling shot cracked the post but it would fall to the feet of Salah. The Egyptian must have ice running through his veins as, here in the last 16 of Europe, instead of lashing the ball home he provided a stunning finish.
Only 13 Liverpool players have ever reached the 30-goal mark in a season with Salah the second quickest to do so. Francisco Soares fired one past the post just before the break to give Liverpool a warning that this tie was not over yet though.
But the Reds got a third eight minutes after the restart when a superb counter-attack saw Salah feed Roberto Firmino before his shot was saved and Mane was on hand to slide home the rebound.
Mane then slid the ball out to Milner in the 70th minute and the Yorkshireman crossed for Firmino to get in on the act as he directed the ball into the bottom corner for the fourth.
And there was still time for Mane to claim the match ball, powering home from 20 yards to give Jose Sa no chance.
Salah leads the way but that is 62 goals for Liverpool’s terrific trio up front who have not slowed since the ‘Fab Four’ was disbanded when Philippe Coutinho exited for Barcelona last month.