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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.

Alexander-Arnold the latest to withdraw from England squad

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Trent Alexander-Arnold will miss out on playing for England this week after withdrawing from the squad with a back injury.

The FA announced the decision on Wednesday afternoon, noting that Alexander-Arnold came into the England camp with the injury and wasn’t able to fully recover in time. Alexander-Arnold suffered the injury during Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Burnley on March 10.

[READ: Sane survives horror tackle]

Alexander-Arnold has had a pretty consistent season for Liverpool, playing 32 times so far in all competitions. Despite being a regular starter for Liverpool, though, he has competition at right back with England from Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker.

At the same time, Alexander-Arnold is the third (or fourth, depending on where he plays) defender to leave the England squad. Alexander-Arnold joins John Stones, Luke Shaw, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek as walking wounded for England.

The Three Lions play a pair of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches in the next week. First, England hosts the Czech Republic on Friday at Wembley Stadium before traveling to Montenegro on Monday.

Five-star Liverpool smokes Watford at Anfield (video)

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  • Mane brace sets new single-season best for PL goals
  • Van Dijk nabs two in second half
  • Fourth-straight LFC clean sheet in all comps

Sadio Mane and Virgil Van Dijk each scored twice as Liverpool smashed Watford 5-0 to emphatically mark the end of a slow offensive stretch and keep its Premier League lead on Wednesday at Anfield.

Divock Origi also scored for the Reds, who lead Manchester City by a single point and close to within six of the second place side on goal differential.

Trent Alexander-Arnold recorded three assists in the win.

Watford fails to take advantage of Wolves’ loss to Huddersfield Town, remaining in 7th place on 40 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Fresh from watching at Old Trafford, Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold served up a tremendous cross for the Reds’ opening goal. Mane’s headed finish was his 13th goal of the season.

Mane made it 2-0 with a splended bit of invention after a poor first touch, giving Alexander-Arnold his second assist of the night with a chopped back heel effort that fooled a charging Ben Foster.

Mohamed Salah hit the bar with a bid to make it 3-0 and James Milner‘s rebound shot was caught by Foster, Liverpool not relenting despite its advantage.

Origi and Van Dijk then scored, with Van Dijk then rounding out the scoring by powering an Andrew Robertson cross over the line.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League box scores, schedule, stats ]

Mane chops back heel goal to complete brace (video)

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Ben Foster is going to be seeing himself on highlight videos for a long time thanks to Sadio Mane.

Mane has two goals already for Liverpool against Watford on Wednesday, the second far more remarkable than his neatly-headed first.

[ MORE: Kepa dropped to bench ]

Trent Alexander-Arnold set up both, but this one showed an inventive Mane making amends for a rough first touch by chopping a back heel over a charging Foster.

The second angle here is the nicest, as Mane collects his 14th goal of the season (while Alexander-Arnold has his career-best fifth assist of the Premier League season).

Liverpool suffer Alexander-Arnold injury blow

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Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to be out for at least a month, as Liverpool’s young right back injured knee ligaments in their 1-0 win at Brighton on Saturday.

Alexander-Arnold, 20, tweaked his knee in the warm up and although he played the entire 90 minutes for the Premier League leaders, the severity of his injury only became apparent in the past few days.

Per a report from the Liverpool Echo, no surgery is required but TAA is expected to miss the upcoming Premier League games against Crystal Palace, Leicester City, West Ham and Bournemouth.

He could be back for their UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg clash against Bayern Munich on Feb. 19.

Jurgen Klopp now has some serious defensive injuries to deal with as Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez remain out, while Joel Matip was only fit enough to be on the bench at the weekend as Fabinho was forced to play at center back alongside Virgil Van Dijk at Brighton. The decision to allow Nathaniel Clyne to leave on loan to Bournemouth in January seems like a bit of a mistake at this stage.

James Milner could slot in to do a job at right back for the game against Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) but all of a sudden Liverpool’s defensive depth is being stretched to its limits.

Klopp’s men are out of both the FA Cup and League Cup and that may be a blessing in disguise as they remain four points clear atop the Premier League table, but with a serious injury backlog to overcome.