Liverpool 4-0 Red Star Belgrade: Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane all on target as Jurgen Klopp’s side move to the top of Group C
- Forward Roberto Firmino opened the scoring for the hosts inside the opening 20 minutes of Group C clash
- Mohamed Salah doubled Liverpool’s lead just before half-time, firing a right-footed shot past Milan Borjan
- Salah scored his second and the hosts’ third from the penalty spot after Sadio Mane was fouled in the area
- Mane saw his spot-kick saved by Borjan following a handball but the forward did score in the 80th minute
Scoring three goals or more in a European tie at home used to be a rare treat, saved for the occasions when your team really cut loose.
One to go to work the next day and tell your mates about. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team have done it seven times in their last nine Champion League games at Anfield.
Occasionally the opposition has been poor, like it was here. UEFA’s blue riband competition is not always as brimming with quality as it should be or indeed used to be. It has grown too big for that.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane scored his side’s fourth goal of the game in the 80th minute of the Group C fixture at Anfield
Liverpool’s Mane saw his spot-kick in the second half saved by Red Star Belgrade goalkeeper Milan Borjan on Wednesday
Mohamed Salah scored his second and Liverpool’s third from the penalty spot after Mane was fouled in the area
Nevertheless, this Liverpool team’s thirst for goals is both remarkable and admirable. When they get their blood up, they are like a boxer driven forwards by the scent of vulnerability. Punch, punch, punch. Keep swinging.
Here it was Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane who delivered the blows. Salah’s one-two combination arrived either side of half-time — the second a penalty — and ensured that his team could spend the rest of the evening looking forward to Saturday’s Premier League game against Cardiff.
Certainly, Liverpool could do with a little more of this against opposition that will be rather more feisty. Since cutting loose with four against West Ham on day one, Klopp’s team have been a little cowed by their own exalted standards.
Red Star Belgrade’s Filip Stojkovic fouls Liverpool’s Mane to give away a penalty in the second half of the match at Anfield
Red Star Belgrade’s Stojkovic and Milos Degenek remonstrate with referee Daniel Siebert after hosts were awarded spot-kick
Here we sensed the tide turn a little when Firmino converted Andy Robertson’s pass after 19 minutes. Mane, generally excellent, could even afford to miss a penalty late on. Salah was already sitting among the substitutes by that point.
It has been a relatively slow start to the season for Liverpool — at least by their usual levels of extreme excitement — and this game began at a pedestrian pace.
But sometimes it takes just one moment to change the course of a game, to alter a mood and lift confidence. Here it happened when Liverpool scored their opening goal in the 20th minute. Before that, they had not been poor but they were rather slow and maybe even a little predictable. Salah took down one chip over the top quite nicely but could not beat goalkeeper Milan Borjan while an attempted back heel from the Egyptian towards Firmino did not beat an attendant defender.
Salah doubled Liverpool’s lead before half-time, firing a right-footed shot past Red Start Belgrade goalkeeper Borjan
Salah added Liverpool’s second goal of the game against Red Star Belgrade in the 45th minute of the Group C fixture
Salah is surrounded by his Liverpool team-mates to celebrate with him after the Egyptian scored at the end of the first half
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 6; Alexander-Arnold 6, Gomez 6, Van Dijk 6, Robertson 6.5 (Moreno 82min); Shaqiri 8 (Lallana 68, 6), Fabinho 6, Wijnaldum 6.5; Salah 7.5 (Sturridge 73, 6), Firminho 7.5, Mane 7.5.
Subs not used: Mignolet, Lovren, Milner, Origi.
Scorers: Firmino 20, Salah 45, 51 (pen), Mane 80.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp 7.
RED STAR BELGRADE (4-2-3-1): Borjan 7; Stojkovic 6, Babic 5.5, Degenek 6, Gobelijic 5.5; Krtsicic 6, Jovicic 5 (Causic 75, 6); Srnic 5, Ebecilio 6 (Jovancic 65, 6), Ben Nabouhane 6 (Simic 81); Boakye 5.
Subs not used: Popovic, Pavkov, Stojiljkovic, Savic.
Booked: Stojkovic, Jovicic, Krtsicic, Jovancic, Gobelijic.
Manager: Vladan Milojevic 6.
Referee: Daniel Siebert (G) 5.5.
Red Star, beaten horridly at PSG by six goals to one in their other away game in Group C, looked comfortable for a while, happy to sit behind the ball. Indeed, the first good chance of the game fell to the visiting team, Srdan Babic volleying a decent opportunity in to the Kop following a free-kick.
It was all to change, though, and it did so on the back of a recognisable Liverpool goal. Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri is gradually finding his rhythm at his new club and the pass he played inside the Red Star right back to play Robertson to the byline on the overlap was perfectly weighted. Robertson was on the gallop and sometimes it is hard to control your pass when moving at that speed. But the young Scot did the right thing as he played the ball back across goal into space.
At Anfield, it is odds-on that a man in red will be first to react and here it was Firmino who took a touch with his right foot and crashed the ball into the centre of the goal with his left. The ball took a small deflection en route to goal but would in all likelihood have beaten the goalkeeper anyway.
So Liverpool were ahead when previously they had not looked like scoring and from that point on everything changed. Liverpool’s attacking players began to play on instinct and they are usually at their best when they are like that.
Shaqiri was consistently dangerous, hard working and prepared to work across the width of the pitch and back to find an opening. One cross from the Swiss player was caught acrobatically by goalkeeper Milan Borjan while a shot from 25 yards was taken low down. Equally prominent was Mane and indeed Salah, who has fought his own battle with form recently. Again this is a relative judgement.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino scores his side’s first goal of the game against Red Star Belgrade at Anfield on Wednesday night
Firmino fires a left-footed shot towards goal, which beat Red Star Belgrade goalkeeper Borjan via a deflection
Brazilian forward Firmino celebrates after breaking the deadlock in the Champions League tie in the 20th minute
Firmino celebrates with Liverpool team-mate Andrew Robertson after putting the Reds ahead in the first half of the match
With Liverpool’s football now being played in a higher gear, Red Star started to buckle. Some of the first touch football was reminiscent of last season and even though the opposition were modest manager Jurgen Klopp will have recognised promising signs.
Robertson should have scored when a lovely combination played him in down the left but he slashed his shot wide. A defender’s finish. But then, a minute later, Georginio Wijnaldum and Shaqiri cut Red Star open down the left and Salah drove a shot past Borjan at the near post.
That was a goal that hurt Red Star but five minutes after half-time, referee Daniel Siebert trampled on their limited ambitions still further.
Red Star Belgrade’s Marko Gobeljic has a shot on goal during the first half of the Champions League Group C encounter
Red Star Belgrade’s Lorenzo Ebecilio in action with Liverpool’s Firmino (right) and Fabinho during the first half
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp issues instructions from the touchline in the first half as his side headed into break 2-0 up
Liverpool had begun the second period at a gallop, determined to enjoy themselves now that their mojo was back. Their passing was intricate and slick and they were starting to try things that other teams probably would not.
Still, the penalty awarded them was soft. Mane was perhaps modestly impeded by El Fardou Ben Nabouhane as he tried to go by him in the area but not enough to send him to ground. Nevertheless the Red Star player was penalised for an arm across the top of the chest — Mane went down holding his face — and Salah drove the penalty down the middle after seeing the goalkeeper commit himself far too easily.
Mane wrapped up the win 10 minutes from time after being played in by Daniel Sturridge to make up for missing a penalty minutes earlier.
Red Star Belgrade defender Filip Stojkovic vies with Liverpool forward Mane at Anfield on Wednesday evening
Liverpool’s Joe Gomez with Red Star Belgarde’s Richmond Boakye during first 45 minutes of Champions League clash
Firmino has his shirt pulled by Red Star Belgrade’s Branko Jovicic during the Group C clash at Anfield on Wednesday evening
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker had a quiet night at Anfield as Klopp’s side secured a comfortable victory at home
Liverpool midfielder Fabinho, who started the game on Wednesday night, challenges Red Star Belgrade’s Branko Jovicic
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