Liverpool's merciless front three at their absolute best in thrashing of Porto
PORTO, Portugal -- Three points on Liverpool's 5-0 win in their Champions League round-of-16 first-leg tie against Porto.
1. Liverpool's front three show no mercy
It's almost a certainty that Liverpool will reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time since 2009, and with the devastating nature of their front three, there is every possibility that their European adventure doesn't end there this season either.
Five away goals at the Estadio do Dragao have Liverpool fans dreaming anything is possible with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane at hand.
It was a night where Salah scored his 30th goal of the season in all competitions, but he was overshadowed by Mane's hat trick that took his tally to 12. But don't forget the tireless efforts of Firmino, too, who scored Liverpool's fourth.
In total, Liverpool have scored 28 times in Europe's premier cup competition in 2017-18 -- more than any other team -- and they aren't showing any signs of slowing down.
There were very early indications that this could have perhaps been a difficult night for Liverpool. Porto decided to go at their English opponents instead of trying to manage the tie over two legs.
But the home side's eagerness got the better of them as Liverpool scored twice within the space of four first-half minutes.
Goalkeeper Jose Sa's throw out in attempt of a quick restart was intercepted by Dejan Lovren, who pushed up into a midfield position as he sensed an opportunity. After a rather scruffy dribble from Georginio Wijnaldum, the ball made its way to Mane. Sa got a hand on Mane's resulting shot, but could only watch as the ball agonizingly squeaked under him and crossed the line.
Liverpool's second in the 29th minute was also a drawn-out process. James Milner hit the post with a strike, with the rebound falling to Salah, who had the goal gaping. With the calmness of a man who had netted on 29 previous occasions during the 2017-18 season, Salah took a touch, casually flicking the ball over the goalkeeper before tapping it in.
Porto were vulnerable as they searched for a way back into the game, but it gave Liverpool's terrific trio even more space to do what they do best.
All of the front three played their part to make it 3-0 early in the second half. On a counter that had Porto outnumbered, Salah played a wonderfully-crafted through ball to Firmino, whose shot was parried by Sa into the path of Mane to finish. Firmino's goal was just as simple as he converted James Milner's cross with 21 minutes left of the 90.
Mane secured the match ball in the 85th minute as he saved his best for the last when he delivered a thumping effort from well outside the penalty area. This tie is all-but over and Liverpool can begin eying up their next victim.
2. Lovren makes his case
You get the impression that Jurgen Klopp is still trying to find his first-choice partner for Virgil van Dijk. However, Lovren's body of work since the arrival of the world's most expensive defender was significantly strengthened on Wednesday night.
In truth, the fixture could have had an entirely different storyline had it not been for Lovren's early intervention. Porto's Otavio had an excellent chance to score inside 10 minutes, but was denied by a last-ditch block from Lovren that saw the ball deflect over the crossbar.
His aggression, which has often been a criticism of his game, led directly to Liverpool holding a strong footing in the game when they went 1-0 up. Had he not sensed the opportunity to win the ball back for his team then Liverpool may well have been on the receiving end of a Porto counterattack.
The commanding presence of Van Dijk now allows Lovren to feels safe taking such risks. Lovren's on-the-edge style of defending is well balanced by the Dutchman, who has firmly taken charge of this Liverpool backline since joining in January.
There may be reservations about whether Lovren can be Van Dijk's long-term partner, but for the present, it may be enough to solidify Liverpool for an important final third of the season.
3. Liverpool earn a break
As has been the case under Klopp's management, Liverpool will use their free weekend to get away from rainy climates. With no FA Cup fifth-round action, Liverpool are heading to a four-day training camp in Marbella, Spain, after this game.
It meant that Liverpool, in the words of their manager, were able to throw their "heart on the pitch giving everything you have" without thinking about the potential repercussions ahead of a soon-to-come fixture.
The short break in Spain can be used to prepare and sharpen focus for the final run-in. A second-place finish in the Premier League and a good run in the Champions League are all very realistic propositions. Belief is there from the manager, who feels his players can compete with Europe's best on any given day.
Indeed, the only concern remains whether Liverpool have enough in their arsenal to keep going at this pace from now until late May. But this result in Porto gives Klopp the option of resting his big hitters for the second leg. That, in itself, is a massive help at this stage of the season.
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.