The business end of the Champions League is beckoning as Liverpool secured top spot in Group E following a domineering performance against Spartak Moscow at Anfield.
There wasn’t even time for a bit of nerves with Philippe Coutinho, wearing the armband, converting from the spot before five minutes had even been played. The stand-in skipper would go on to bag a hat-trick, finishing a silky move for his second and having a deflected effort squeak past Spartak ‘keeper Aleksandr Selikhov to nab his first European hat-trick for the Merseysiders. To be fair, by that point it was looking done and dusted with a Roberto Firmino strike and the first of Sadio Mane’s double scored in between.
The Senegalese attacker would go on to bag his brace with well placed effort and Mohamed Salah — looking for one of his own throughout — would finally get himself on the score-sheet four minutes from time to turn a rout in to…well…something even more embarrassing.
“Nobody could imagine that it would go like this tonight. It was an all or nothing game for both teams. Spartak Moscow is a really good side, I know you won’t think so now but they are difficult to play against,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, speaking to BT Sport. “It helps to get an early goal or two. I told them at half-time we needed to show that we learn from our mistakes and keep going,” enthused the Reds manager, already looking ahead to the next round. “I don’t mind too much who we get – usually I always get Real Madrid so we will see. We have no preferred opponents, it will be really nice after a long time. I love this kind of news.”
And, it has to be said, Klopp loves that kind of performance. Even when there was only a few minutes left on the clock and they were winning by six, the Reds continued to hound and harass their opponents, unwilling to concede an inch of ground or consider for a second letting the Russians have a turn — the “heavy metal football” that the gaffer so adores in it’s purest form.
What more is there to say? Was it vindication for throwing away a three goal lead in Spain last month? Maybe not quite considering we would have topped the Group with a match to spare, but we’ve never been known for doing it the easy way.
By the time the next round kicks-off, the January transfer window will have shut up shop and hopefully the club will have drafted in a new player at the back to add more than a touch of steel to their defense. In full flight, Liverpool are a joy to behold, but with the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich potential opponents in the next round, their back-line and penchant for conceding sloppy goals remains a serious — and yet unaddressed — concern.
We might not be known for taking the path of least resistance, but that doesn’t mean we have to go out of our way to make it hard, does it?