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Champions’ (League) mentality: Reds keep winning when not at best

Britain Soccer Champions League

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk shakes hands with Naby Keita, right, as Porto’s Moussa Marega, left, looks on, at the end of the Champions League quarterfinal, first leg, soccer match between Liverpool and FC Porto at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Tuesday April 9, 2019. Liverpool won 2-0. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)


Liverpool continues to scrap out wins when it isn’t at its high-flying peak.

The Reds were always in control of their 2-0 defeat of Porto on Tuesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, despite not really putting their foot down on the gas.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Yes, there was again luck involved -- a few VAR decisions went against Porto and Naby Keita’s opener was deflected -- but largely this was down to a superior team defeating an inferior opponent at home with relative comfort.

Jurgen Klopp wasn’t happy with the amount of set pieces Liverpool conceded, especially given Porto’s aptitude in that area, but overall knows his team ground out a quality win. From the BBC:

“We lost a little bit of direction in the second half, but there’s nothing to criticize, 2-0 is a very, very good result,” Klopp said. “We knew we had to play the second game and we cannot decide the tie tonight, so now we have to go there and fight again.”

Reds captain Jordan Henderson also wasn’t pleased with the second frame, but knows his men got the job done.

“We wanted to come out in the second half and score one or two more but that wasn’t to be,” he said. “We didn’t create that much and it was a bit stop-start, but overall we have to be pleased to take 2-0 over there.”

The one player who tested Alisson Becker not once but three times was Moussa Marega, who will certainly become a name we hear about in the transfer mill. Virgil van Dijk appreciated the challenge.

“He’s strong and tough to play against. Every striker I play against at the moment is pretty good but I’m enjoying these battles. You want to enjoy these games and now all the focus will be on Chelsea.”

Follow @NicholasMendola