07 March 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 0-0 Porto

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Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

(Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)

Let's be honest. There's not a lot to write about here. Liverpool were up by five goals after the first leg, and Porto were happy to not lose by more than five goals on aggregate.

It was something that Liverpool matches rarely are. It was boring, from almost start to finish.

And boring was exactly what Liverpool needed. Boring, for once, is good.

It wasn't a complete waste of 90 minutes.

Firmino and Mané started – playing 61 and 73 minutes respectively – with Salah coming off the bench for the latter. You can complain about all three playing in a dead rubber but given how the side's fitness has been this season – especially compared to last – I'm more than willing to give the staff the benefit of the doubt here. Keep 'em hungry.

There were six players in the starting XI likely to feature in Saturday's side at Manchester United. But Lallana, Moreno, and Gomez all made needed starts, with Ings also getting half an hour off the bench.

Despite playing at half-pace, Liverpool had three clear-cut chances – three more than Porto had in 180 minutes – and also hit the woodwork.

Liverpool still ran a lot – the 115.1km covered as a team was Liverpool's second-highest total in the Champions League this season, behind the 116.5km at Sevilla.

Liverpool were still fairly Liverpool, just with a firm grasp on the handbrake. Because Liverpool were so potent in the first leg, what happened here almost didn't matter.

Yes, yes, game state, but still. You over-performed Expected Goals by a healthy margin. You held Porto scoreless over two legs. You held Porto to around 0.556 xG per shot, which is an insanely low total. Liverpool scored more goals in 60 minutes in the first leg than Porto had shots on-target in both legs.

It was a good 180 minutes against good opposition, because of a great first 90 minutes in Portugal. It was exactly the way Liverpool needed to navigate its first Champions League knockout tie since 2009.

I'm sure you've seen "this was Liverpool's eighth Champions League game at Anfield this decade." That's eight games in eight years. It's almost embarrassing.

The Champions League because the "Champions League" in 1992. 25 years ago. This is the sixth time Liverpool will be in the quarterfinals. 2001-02, 2004-05, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, and now 2017-18. That doesn't seem like many appearances. But this is also only the 10th time Liverpool have been in the Champions League. Six quarterfinals in ten appearances. Two finals, one trophy.

I ain't saying this stage of the competition is Liverpool's birthright, but it's kind of Liverpool's birthright. This is where Liverpool belong. And it's long past time that Liverpool reestablish that.

1 comment :

wides said...

0.556 xG actually seems just a tad high for the quality of their chances ;)