Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool “belong” in the Champions League quarter-finals after a 0-0 second-leg draw at Anfield gave them a 5-0 aggregate win over Porto in their last-16 tie.
It is the first time since 2009 the Reds have reached the last eight but Klopp insisted it “should not be a big surprise”.
Liverpool won 5-0 in Portugal to set up a comfortable return leg at Anfield.
They will discover their next opponents when the draw is made on 16 March.
“The next round will be difficult, seven other very good teams – maybe four of them are from England, which doesn’t make it easier,” Klopp said.
“I think we will have a chance for sure to go to the semi-finals. We’ll take it step by step.”
The quarter-final ties will be played in the first and second weeks of April and Klopp says he “doesn’t care” who Liverpool’s opponents are.
“We take it how it comes,” he said. “We don’t wish for anybody. We play whoever we get.”
It wasn’t a spectacular ending to Liverpool’s last-16 tie but there were a few chances to break the deadlock.
Sadio Mane acrobatically fired an effort over the bar and hit the post in a generally tame first half that also saw Dejan Lovren head narrowly wide.
Danny Ings picked up some rare game-time as a second-half substitute and was denied from close range by Iker Casillas late in the game after Majeed Waris’ strike – Porto’s only shot on target.
Klopp used the opportunity to rest players for Liverpool’s Premier League match against Manchester United on Saturday (12:30 GMT), making five changes to the starting line-up.
Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah were named among the substitutes but the Egyptian did have a cameo in the second half as Mane was given a breather.
There was also a chance for Joe Gomez and Adam Lallana to gain further fitness following returns from injury.
Liverpool back in Europe’s elite
It is almost 11 years since Liverpool faced AC Milan in the Champions League final, losing 2-1 in Athens.
Back then they were hitting the heights in European football pretty regularly – the most successful English club in the competition’s history, it was just two years since they had beaten the same opponents to lift their fifth trophy on a famous night in Istanbul.
But since being knocked out at the group stage in 2009, Liverpool have only featured in the Champions League twice.
It was a dejected-looking Reds side who trudged off the field in December 2014, a 1-1 draw with Basel confirming their elimination from the competition after a wretched campaign.
It would be Steven Gerrard’s last game in the Champions League – a Liverpool legend bowing out with a goal but unable to reproduce the heroics he had done against Olympiakos a decade before en route to Istanbul.
After five years of waiting, it wasn’t the way Liverpool had dreamt their comeback would go.
Four more years on, Liverpool are back. And this time they look more than worthy members of Europe’s elite.
They have cantered into the quarter-finals – barely hitting second gear – and now they eye the prize of a place in the last four.
Farewell to a European great?
Porto goalkeeper Casillas may have played his final Champions League game tonight – if so, he leaves the competition with a record number of appearances.
The 36-year-old, who played his 167th game on Tuesday, is expected to leave Porto at the end of the season and it is unclear where his future lies.
But this was not the fairytale ending the three-time European champion might have hoped for. Despite a decent save from Ings late in the second half, it was largely a forgettable evening.
A quiet evening in attack – best of the stats
- Liverpool progress to the last eight of the Champions League for the first time since 2008-09 (when they were eventually knocked out by Chelsea).
- Liverpool remain unbeaten against Porto in their six meetings in all competitions (W3 D3).
- Iker Casillas made his 167th appearance in the Champions League, 16 more than any other player in the history of the Champions League/European Cup (Xavi is next on 151).
- This was the first Champions League game this season with no first-half shots on target, and the first since 14 February last year – Benfica v Borussia Dortmund.
- Liverpool also failed to direct a single shot on target in the first half of a game for only the second time this season in any competition (also v Chelsea on 25 November in the Premier League)
- The Merseysiders failed to score at Anfield for the first time in their past nine games in all competitions, since a 0-0 draw against West Brom in December.
- Liverpool have kept five clean sheets in their past six games in the Champions League, only conceding against Sevilla in November (3-3).
- The Reds secured their biggest aggregate margin in European competition (five) since beating Real Madrid 1-0 and 4-0 in the last 16 of the Champions League in 2009.
‘It is rare to have a game like this’ – what the boss said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to BT Sport: “We did the job and that was it tonight.
“It wasn’t the most exciting game but we controlled it, had a few chances, got a clean sheet and gave some boys some minutes. I am pretty sure it is rare to have a game like this in the knockout stages!
“We needed to be serious and we were, so all good. Of course, we want to win two games at this stage. When you watch the game you always think ‘oh come on, a little bit more here or there’ but they did well and it is all good. The attitude was outstanding.”