By Umarah Naz
The team with the smallest stadium in the Champions League were on the receiving end of the biggest away win for an English club in the competition.
For a team struggling for form and goals recently with only one win in eight games, Liverpool dished out a much needed thrashing to Maribor who conceded seven times. There had been much rhetoric that Liverpool were on the cusp of handing out a hammering and the Slovenian outfit became the victims of this brutal assault.
Maribor hadn’t lost a home game since a pre-season friendly against Krasnodar at the start of July but had made a tedious habit of drawing. As had Liverpool. Despite the similarities, Liverpool were expected to win but no one was sure how it would be done. Left disappointed after drawing the first two group games which should have been won, Liverpool were in desperate need of a good win to strengthen their group standing as well as boost confidence for upcoming league games.
If ever the importance of an early goal needed to be proved, Roberto Firmino showed us its effect in just the fourth minute. Mohamed Salah provided from the right and Firmino tapped home to settle the nerves.
Nine minutes later, Phillipe Coutinho half-volleyed Milner’s cross in for Liverpool’s second. Milner had come in for Henderson in his favoured midfield role and proved a fantastic change as he commanded midfield and found himself further up the pitch assisting the front three in their endeavours too; not letting up the pace even after Liverpool had done more than enough to win.
He absolutely did himself justice and has certainly given the manager the confidence that the thirty-one year old can more than adequately fill in as and when required.
Salah seems to reinforce his excellent value for money every time he plays, being the main creative spark as well as scoring. Within twenty minutes he put the Reds three up when he linked up with Firmino before finishing off from a tight angle making sure all of the front three had a goal each. So what happens when each one scores? Two score the fourth together, of course.
Moreno’s cross was bundled in by a fusion of Egyptian pace and Brazilian movement. Countless replays later, the goal was awarded to Salah with Firmino not looking to care one bit. He got his second and Liverpool’s fifth after the break when he met Coutinho’s free-kick with a glancing header past Maribor goalkeeper, Handanovic.
In the coming fifteen minutes, Salah, Firmino were denied their hat tricks when they made way for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sturridge, with Solanke replacing Wijnaldum. New signing, Oxlade-Chamberlain has made a stuttering start to his Liverpool career but that can all be put down to him being in the throes of adaptation.
Some wild touches didn’t help his cause with the fans who are still divided over his addition. Maybe a goal was needed to ease him into the team. And Sturridge obliged when centre-back Suler fumbled his lines gifting the ball to the England striker who laid the ball off to the former Arsenal man who finished coolly for a sixth Reds goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold doubled his Champions League goals tally when his long range shot deflected off Suler’s arm to wrong foot Handanovic.
Despite Suler’s torrid time at the heart of Maribor’s defence, he was the only one who came close for the Slovenian’s when he connected with a free header from a set piece in the first-half only to head it wide.
Champions League goalkeeper, Karius had little to do in goal but has been credited for Liverpool’s high press with his sweeper keeper style. Food for thought for Jurgen Klopp? It’s seems Mignolet is safe for now with Klopp still unwilling to show his ruthlessness in dropping players.
A clean sheet ended a perfect night for Jurgen Klopp. Yes, it was “only Maribor” but it’s never quite that cut and dry with Liverpool. Quite simply, easy is difficult and difficult is easy. It now remains to be seen if this result will inspire Klopp’s men to string together a series of winning results and spark a resurgence.
However, a tough fixture against Spurs at Wembley awaits on Sunday afternoon. But what better place to start? Liverpool now sit on top of their group albeit on goal difference after Spartak Moscow surprisingly annihilated Sevilla 5-1 at home on Tuesday night.
Maribor come to Anfield in a fortnight’s time and the Reds will be looking to take full advantage in an unpredictable group, hoping to ease the pressure at the top with Spartak Moscow breathing down their necks level on points in second place. The draw at Moscow not looking so shabby now.
Win at Anfield in two weeks and Liverpool will be in a strong position and should also have recovered from the current “crisis” when they visit Sevilla and Spartak Moscow travel to Anfield. Seven goals should certainly go a long way to rekindle Liverpool’s love affair with the back of the net.