Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hailed the touch of ‘genius’ by Xherdan Shaqiri that helped Mohamed Salah take his club total to 50 goals in 65 games as the Reds thrashed Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) 4-0 on Wednesday night at Anfield in the Champions League.
To hear what Klopp had to say watch below.
Mohamed Salah reached 50 goals for Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp’s side got their Champions League campaign back on track with a comfortable victory over Red Star Belgrade at Anfield.
Defeat by Napoli last time out made this a must-win game in the battle with the Italians and Paris Saint-Germain for the qualifying spots, and Liverpool’s class told as they ran out 4-0 winners.
Roberto Firmino continued his fine scoring record in the competition with the opener in the 20th minute before Salah took over, netting his first just before half-time and then scoring a penalty shortly after the break to make it 50 goals in just 65 Reds appearances.
A second penalty was missed by Sadio Mane but the forward made amends moments later to net Liverpool’s fourth.
Klopp stressed in his programme notes that Red Star should not be underestimated but the Serbian champions, playing in the competition proper for the first time since it became the Champions League in 1992, looked clearly the weak link in Group C.
Liverpool welcomed back Mane following his broken thumb but their injury problems persist and Virgil van Dijk captained the team in the absence of the hamstrung Jordan Henderson.
Brazilian midfielder Fabinho made only his second start for the club and impressed in moments while also giving the ball away too cheaply.
The early stages showcased the “average” Liverpool that Klopp referred to after they ground out victory over Huddersfield at the weekend, with passes misplaced and Red Star looking the more threatening.
The home side’s opening 10 minutes was summed up by Trent Alexander-Arnold inadvertently blocking Firmino’s shot when Liverpool finally created something of note.
Moments later Xherdan Shaqiri played Salah clean through but, although his first touch was good, the Egyptian dallied too long before shooting and keeper Milan Borjan blocked.
After 19 minutes of little quality, a move oozing it gave Liverpool the lead. Shaqiri won the ball back in midfield and then played a tremendous pass to Andrew Robertson, who pulled it back for Firmino in the centre of goal to take a touch before drilling it in via a deflection.
Red Star were banned from having any fans in the stadium because of trouble at a previous match in Salzburg, but it was barely noticeable so marginal were they as an attacking force.
The goal settled Liverpool down and it was only a matter of time before they grabbed a second.
Robertson probably should have been the man but he sliced woefully wide in the 43rd minute after finding himself clean through.
Two minutes later the hosts did have their second, Shaqiri again the instigator with a ball through to Salah, who had once more looked rather hesitant but this time acted decisively to slam the ball into the net.
If the contest was still just about alive, it was ended six minutes into the second half when Salah converted from the penalty spot.
Referee Daniel Siebert took an age to decide that Filip Stojkovic’s block on Mane was worthy of a penalty, much to the annoyance of Red Star.
Liverpool continued to push forward, and Firmino drew a decent save from Borjan, but Klopp’s mind began to turn to Saturday’s clash with Cardiff and he withdrew both Shaqiri, who received a standing ovation, and Salah.
Moments later Liverpool were awarded a second penalty for a handball by El Fardou Ben Nabouhane but Mane was denied by a superb save from Borjan and was unable to put away the rebound.
Redemption arrived only four minutes later when he timed his run expertly to collect a Daniel Sturridge pass and poke the ball past Borjan.
Liverpool blew Red Star Belgrade away with a clinical 4-0 win in the Champions League on Wednesday night, with their all-star front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane all getting on the scoresheet.
The real star of the show, however, was Xherdan Shaqiri, pulling the strings behind them in a superb performance.
Here’s how the Reds rated on the night.
Alisson 7 – Had little to do all game – in fact, Red Star didn’t force him into even one save. His distribution and handling were solid as usual.
Trent Alexander-Arnold 7 – Was good in defence on the few occasions he was tested, and his usual threat out wide in attack. Mixed results from set-piece duties, with a couple of dangerous corners but also some wasted free-kicks.
Joe Gomez 8 – Another assured display from a young defender who has come a long way in a short span this season. Unruffled the few times Red Star threatened in attack, as he dealt with their forwards with ease.
Virgil van Dijk 8 – Largely untroubled in defence as Red Star’s attack was kept at arm’s length, though the confidence he adds to the back-line which allows that to happen is a big part of what he brings to Liverpool.
Andy Robertson 8 – A typically robust display from the left-back. His defending was solid and uncompromising. Displayed his usual work-rate in attack, including producing a few excellent crosses.
Georginio Wijnaldum 6 – A purposeful display, though one without any end product. His work on the press and driving forward with the ball was typically energetic.
Fabinho 9 – His first Champions League start for Liverpool, and Fabinho delivered an excellent display. The Brazilian controlled things in midfield with simple, composed passing, while also showing off a few flicks and tricks.
Xherdan Shaqiri 9 – While he didn’t get on the scoresheet, Shaqiri ran the show for Liverpool with a sublime display, setting up the first two goals. The deeper role in midfield may be unfamiliar to him, but he’s taken to it like a duck to water.
Mohamed Salah 8 – This looked more like the Salah of last season, as he built on his goalscoring performance at the weekend with another couple of goals here. His first, a finish off his weaker foot, shows that his confidence is back.
Roberto Firmino 7 – Scored a superb opener, rounding off a sweeping Liverpool move, and was always in the perfect position whether his team was defending or attacking.
Sadio Mane 6 – Got his goal eventually, ending a seven-game drought, but it came after a missed penalty and a display that was full of frustration. He’ll be relieved to have gotten on the scoresheet.
Adam Lallana 6 – Full of running as always, and why wouldn’t he be after the time he’s missed through injury. Passed up a glorious chance to get on the scoresheet after being sent through one-on-one.
Daniel Sturridge 7 – Came on and set up a goal for Mane, continuing his renaissance for Liverpool this season with another assured display that nearly yielded a spectacular goal at the end.
Alberto Moreno 6 – Lively cameo at the end, after he replaced the excellent Robertson.