Defending Champions, Liverpool saw off saw off Genk 2-1 in a grand style thanks to winner from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who continued his fine form in front of goal for the Reds on Tuesday, as they usurp Napoli at the top of Group E.
Jurgen Klopp, after the fine header of Mbwana Samatta, looked in danger of dropping points for a moment, but the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain justified his choice with the winning goal that secured Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Salzburg.
Georginio Wijnaldum had made the first scoring with a smart finish early on, but for the remainder of the first half, Liverpool lacked a technical edge and Samatta sticked home five minutes before the break.
Still, Liverpool were dominant after the break and restored their lead with 53 minutes on the clock – Oxlade-Chamberlain getting his fourth goal in as many games to potentially put himself in contention for a start against Manchester City at the weekend.
A purposeful beginning had Liverpool leading after just 14 minutes, with Wijnaldum doing well to prod the ball into the top-left corner from close range despite it landing awkwardly in front of him.
The Reds wasted numerous chances to increase their advantage, Naby Keita drawing a fine save from Gaetan Coucke before Mohamed Salah and James Milner both missed the target.
And Samatta made them pay just before half-time, steering home a powerful header from Bryan Heynen’s corner after Fabinho allowed him a free run at the ball.
But Liverpool showed renewed focus after the restart and Oxlade-Chamberlain made a decisive impact, taking a touch and then shooting left-footed on the turn after receiving Salah’s pass, picking out the bottom-right corner.
Genk should have levelled late on when Heynen was released into the left side of the box, but Alisson palmed away his strike and the hosts held on despite the visitors’ late pressure.
Napoli slumping to a surprise draw at home to Salzburg means Liverpool will be confident of going on to finish top of the group.
Tuesday’s performance was by no means a classic, yet it highlighted Klopp’s strength in depth as he shuffled his pack and they were able to claim the win that puts them in control.
Starting in attack in the place of Sadio Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain was a real positive for the Reds. His build-up play was effective and he looked arguably the biggest danger to Genk, deservedly scoring in the second half.
While Genk were by no means a constant threat, it can be argued Liverpool allowed them to look dangerous. The Reds appeared particularly shaky when defending set-piece situations, with the visitors’ goal coming from a corner. As such, it was the eighth successive game across all competitions in which they have conceded, their worst run under Klopp.
Take these Key Opta facts
– Genk have played more matches in the history of the European Cup/Champions League without winning than any other club (16 – W0 D8 L8)
– Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in 68 goals in 59 appearances for Liverpool at Anfield across all competitions (50 goals and 18 assists)
– Liverpool remain unbeaten in their last 24 home matches in European competition (W18 D6 L0). Their last defeat was against Real Madrid in October 2014 (0-3)
– Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has scored four goals in his last four games for Liverpool – as many as in his previous 45 appearances for the Reds across all competitions
– Three of Georginio Wijnaldum’s last four goals for Liverpool have come in the Champions League at Anfield (also netting a brace against Barcelona in May)
Up next for Liverpool,Reds will play host to Manchester City on Sunday in a match that could have significant consequences in the Premier League title race, while Genk host Gent the same day.