LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - Liverpool eased into the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a goalless draw against Porto on Tuesday, completing a routine aggregate victory after their 5-0 first-leg win in Portugal.
Despite facing old rivals Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp fielded a strong side although top scorer Mohamed Salah and record signing Virgil van Dijk both started on the bench.
In a predictably low-key game, Liverpool striker Sadio Mane, whose hat-trick in Porto helped ensure there was little at stake at Anfield, came closest to breaking the deadlock.
Mane was off target with an effort at full-stretch from a Joe Gomez cross in the 18th minute and then hit the post in the 31st minute after taking down a ball from James Milner and releasing a low diagonal drive.
While the night lacked drama, the passion was brought by Porto’s supporters who, despite the heavy loss from two weeks ago, travelled to Merseyside to fill the away section and sang their hearts out all night.
They received little in the way of excitement from their team in return with their first real effort on goal not coming until the 52nd minute when Ghanaian winger Majeed Waris’ shot from the edge of the box was pushed wide by Liverpool keeper Loris Karius.
Substitute Danny Ings then forced a fine save out of Porto’s veteran Spanish keeper Iker Casillas with a looping header in the final stages.
Casillas, a three-times Champions League winner with Real Madrid, will be released by Porto at the end of this season and at the age of 36 this may have been his last game in Europe’s elite club competition.
The keeper was given an impressive round of applause from Liverpool’s fans as he took his place in front of the Kop for the second half.
“We are through to the next round which is the most important thing - obviously we wanted to win - but we have to give credit to Porto because they played well,” said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.
“This is the business end of the season. The next few months are very important for the team. We need to put performances in like we have been and the results will follow,” he added.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis