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

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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.”

Efficient Liverpool punishes Porto (video)

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  • Keita scores deflected opener
  • Firmino makes it 2-0 before half
  • Alisson strong in goal

Liverpool went a long way toward clinching a second-successive spot in the UEFA Champions League, defeating Porto 2-0 at Anfield on Tuesday in a quarterfinal first leg.

Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino scored the goals, with the second leg on tap for April 17 at the Estadio Do Dragao.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Porto will feel aggrieved to see a defender error put them behind after five minutes, as Naby Keita’s rip deflected wildly to fool Iker Casillas.

Casillas soon had to make a comfortable save on Mohamed Salah, as the Reds were clearly on top.

The Reds made it 2-0 through Firmino, who just had to tap home in-tight from a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Jordan Henderson found Sadio Mane for a goal early in the second half, but the Senegalese man was ruled offside after VAR review.

Alisson Becker had himself a day in between the sticks for Liverpool, and thwarted a pretty dangerous Moussa Marega on multiple occasions.

Report: Bayern, BVB ready to buy Keita from Liverpool

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A report claims that Liverpool is ready to admit defeat in the case of Naby Keita.

Keita, 24, was bought from RB Leipzig last season and arrived at Anfield in the summer, but has struggled to find consistent playing time under Jurgen Klopp.

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Viewed as the missing link between the Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s torrential attack, Keita has not come close to replicating the form that saw his price tag reach $69 million.

Indeed, Team Talk says Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich look prepared to pay around $53 million to bring Keita back to the Bundesliga.

Keita has played 27 matches in all competitions for Liverpool, accumulating 1,388 minutes and just one assist. He had nine goals and seven assists in more than double the minutes one season ago.

According to WhoScored.com, he’s passing the ball better and taking almost a foul less than last season, but almost every other measurable has declined since he moved to England.

I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking Keita would be everything the Reds required after an improved 2017-18, but he’s either being used very poorly or having trouble adjusting to the culture.

It’s early to quit on a player so talented, but maybe Klopp and he just don’t mesh well. But if it isn’t a case of clashing with the club, it may be worth waiting out a player who looked a giant just eight months ago.

Ungiven penalty leaves Klopp seething after Liverpool draw

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp cannot understand why his men weren’t given a penalty when Naby Keita was taken down in the box during the second half of a 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Wednesday.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 1-1 Leicester ]

“It was probably the clearest penalty situation we have had,” Klopp said. “The ref was in the best position on the pitch. You will have to ask him why he didn’t give a penalty. You cannot change it.”

Ricardo Pereira stepped on the side of Keita’s back foot as the Liverpool midfielder attempted to flick a ball with the outside of his front peg, but referee Martin Atkinson was not impressed with the shout.

Klopp won’t like the reaction of Leicester City boss Claude Puel when asked if it was a penalty. Puel said, “Are you a Liverpool fan? I think we had the right decision from the referee. There is no excuse for Liverpool.”

Yeah, Claude, except it sure looked like a penalty from nearly every angle. The Reds got a bum call on Wednesday.

Sloppy Liverpool trips up v. Leicester City (video)

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  • Mane scores in third minute
  • Maguire levels before break
  • Reds only manage 3 shots on target

Liverpool barely took advantage of its stumbling rivals, drawing Leicester City 1-1 at Anfield on Wednesday.

Sadio Mane scored for the Reds, who have a five-point lead on Manchester City and a seven-point advantage over Spurs. Man City lost at Newcastle on Tuesday.

Harry Maguire grabbed the equalizer for Leicester City, who were fortunate not to concede a second half penalty. The Foxes are 11th with 32 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Andy Robertson‘s square pass bounced off Jonny Evans en route to Mane, who took a touch before slotting a third minute shot inside the far post.

But much like Newcastle versus Man City a day earlier, the Foxes didn’t shrink away. And Liverpool seemingly helped the visitors’ cause, Alisson Becker in particular.

Maguire got a deserved equalizer in first half stoppage, as a third ball into the box off a botched free kick was calmly slotted by the English World Cup hero.

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Alisson stopped Liverpool from conceding an own goal with a fine reaction in the 53rd.

Liverpool were denied penalty shouts when Naby Keita was taken down in the box.