Liverpool eased the pressure on Jurgen Klopp as Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah inspired a 7-0 thrashing of Maribor in the Champions League yesterday.
After drawing their first two European fixtures and spluttering in the Premier League, Liverpool arrived in Slovenia with critics questioning Klopp’s signings and tactics.
But, for once, Klopp’s team showed a ruthless touch in the opposition penalty area to demolish woeful Maribor.
Firmino opened the scoring and Philippe Coutinho increased Liverpool’s lead before Salah’s brace put the Reds four up by half-time at Stadion Ljudski Vrt.
Firmino netted again after the break, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold also on the scoresheet as Liverpool’s goal blitz moved them into first place in Group E with three matches left.
After only one victory in their last eight games in all competitions, this was a welcome tonic for Klopp and company as they ended a three-match winless run.
Now Klopp must hope the dominant display marks a much-needed change in his side’s fortunes.
Saturday’s goalless draw against Manchester United had continued Liverpool’s frustrating recent trend of failing to kill off their opponents despite controlling possession.
Liverpool’s profligacy sparked criticism of Klopp’s failure to buy a top-class striker and, irritated by questions about his trophyless two-year reign, he sarcastically labelled himself a “charismatic, funny loser” earlier this week.
Aware the heat was being turned up, Klopp will be relieved Liverpool looked more potent, although it helped that Maribor were totally out of their depth.
Klopp’s side quickly punished Maribor’s naive defending to take a fourth minute lead.
Salah was left in acres of space down the right edge of the Maribor penalty area and the Egypt winger’s low cross into the six yard box teed up Firmino to tap-in his fifth goal of the season.
Liverpool were running riot and Coutinho doubled their advantage in the 13th minute.
Salah sent James Milner away down the right flank and he pulled a cross back to the edge of the Maribor area, where Coutinho arrived to slot home his fifth goal of the season.
Firmino went close with a flicked shot at the end of a flowing move, but for once applying the finishing touch wasn’t a problem for Klopp’s men.
Salah made it three with his seventh goal of the season in the 19th minute.
Firmino was the creator, riding two tackles and slipping a deft pass to Salah, who guided a cool finish past Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic.
Maribor were in complete disarray and Salah notched Liverpool’s fourth from virtually on the goalline after Alberto Moreno’s cross unhinged the hapless hosts in the 39th minute.
It was only the seventh time an English club had scored four first half goals in the Champions League.
Liverpool weren’t finished yet and the Brazil connection combined for their fifth when Firmino rose to head in Coutinho’s 54th minute free-kick.
Capping a night when everything when right for Klopp, Oxlade-Chamberlain, on as a substitute, grabbed his first Liverpool goal since his August move from Arsenal.
Daniel Sturridge’s pass sent Oxlade-Chamberlain clear in the 86th minute and he calmly stroked his shot past Handanovic.
Klopp was all smiles on the touchline and there was still time for teenage defender Alexander-Arnold to net in stoppage-time with a deflected long-range effort.
Acrobatic Lloris keeps Real at bay
Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made a string of impressive saves in the second half to earn his side a 1-1 away draw with Champions League holders Real Madrid yesterday which kept the two sides locked on seven points at the top of Group H.
Tottenham scored for the first time in their history against the 12-times European champions when Serge Aurier aimed a cross towards Harry Kane and defender Raphael Varane accidentally backheeled the ball into his own net in the 28th minute.
The erratic Aurier let his side down moments before the break, however, clattering into Toni Kroos in the area. Ronaldo scored from the penalty spot in the 43rd minute after sending Lloris the wrong way. It was his fifth Champions League goal of the season and he joined Spurs’ Harry Kane at the top of the competition’s scoring charts.
Madrid were more dominant in both halves but were denied a third consecutive Champions League win by the heroics of visiting captain Lloris, who made his most outstanding save by flinging his legs out to block a goal-bound header by compatriot Karim Benzema.
Leipzig battle past Porto
RB Leipzig struck twice in three minutes to beat Porto 3-2 at home yesterday, securing their maiden Champions League victory and moving into second place in Group G.
Last season’s Bundesliga runners-up kept possession well throughout and scored three times in a topsy-turvy first half through Willi Orban, Emil Forsberg and Jean-Kevin Augustin.
Leipzig, who recovered from their defeat to Besiktas on the previous matchday, have four points, one more than their Portuguese opponents, who are third.
The big surprise in the Porto lineup was the absence of World Cup winner Iker Casillas, with the Spanish keeper being left on the bench in favour of Jose Sa, a 24-year-old making his debut in the competition.
Bernard double seals victory at Feynoord for Shakhtar
Brazilian Bernard bagged a double as 10-man Shakhtar Donetsk came from behind to defeat Feyenoord in their Champions League Group F clash at De Kuip yesterday.
Steven Berghuis had put the home side in front, but goals in each half from Bernard turned the game in favour of the Ukrainian side, who ended the contest with 10 men after Yaroslav Rakitsky was sent off.
The victory moves Shakhtar up to second in the group with six points from three matches, three behind leaders Manchester City.
Napoli have three points but Feyenoord have now suffered three successive losses.
At Maribor, Slovenia
Maribor (SLO) 0 Liverpool (ENG) 7 (Firmino 4, 54, Coutinho 13, Salah 19, 40, Oxlade-Chamberlain 86, Alexander-Arnold 90)
Spartak Moscow (RUS) 5 (Promes 18, 90, Melgarejo 58, Glushakov 67, Luiz Adriano 74) Sevilla (ESP) 1 (Kjaer 30)
At Manchester, England
Manchester City (ENG) 2 (Sterling 9, Jesus 13) Napoli (ITA) 1 (Diawara 73-pen)
At Rotterdam, Netherlands
Feyenoord (NED) 1 (Berghuis 8) Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) 2 (Bernard 24, 54)
At Leipzig, Germany
RB Leipzig (GER) 3 (Orban 8, Forsberg 38, Augustin 41) Porto (POR) 2 (Aboubakar 18, Marcano 44)
Monaco (FRA) 1 (Falcao 30) Besiktas (TUR) 2 (Cenk Tosun 34, 54)
Real Madrid (ESP) 1 (Ronaldo 43-pen) Tottenham Hotspur (ENG) 1 (Varane 28-og)
APOEL Nicosia (CYP) 1 (Pote 62) Borussia Dortmund (GER) 1 (Papastathopoulos 67)
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