PORTO (Portugal) • Jurgen Klopp described Liverpool's Champions League 5-0 rout of Porto on Wednesday as Sadio Mane's comeback after the Senegal striker struck a hat-trick for the highest-scoring team in Europe's elite competition.
Liverpool took their tally for the campaign to 28, more than any other team, as Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah's 30th goal of the season inflicted on Porto the heaviest home defeat in their European history.
The Reds have scored 99 goals in all competitions this season and the manager praised Mane after a recent dip in form left the player without a goal in his previous five games in all competitions.
The Liverpool manager said of his forward after the last-16, first-leg clash: "He was always important, he was always fantastic for us even in his 'not that good' moments. That's real quality. If you are not 100 per cent but still involved in goals, that's really important. Then it will come, if you keep working really hard like he did.
"The first was a little lucky, but the other two - the second one was about being in the right place and he used his fantastic skills on the third one so it's good, really good."
Porto had lost only two matches in all competitions this season prior to Wednesday's game. And Klopp described Liverpool's performance in their first Champions League knockout game for nine years as "exactly as good as necessary" and claimed the tie was not over.
"I'm too long in the business to think anything is sorted before the final whistle is done," he said ahead of the March 6 return leg at Anfield.
Salah's 29th-minute goal arguably upstaged Mane's treble as the Egyptian scored with a mesmerising piece of ball juggling.
Liverpool midfielder James Milner's shot hit the post and rebounded to Salah, who flicked it up over Porto goalkeeper Jose Sa, then controlled it with his head and touched it into the net.
"We needed to play as a team and that's what we did," said Mane, who became the fourth Liverpool player to score a hat-trick in Europe's elite club competition after Michael Owen, Yossi Benayoun and Philippe Coutinho.
"We played great football, created great chances and scored five goals."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS