Mohamed Salah scored his 50th Liverpool goal as Jurgen Klopp's men eased to a 4-0 home win over Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday to get their Champions League campaign back on track by going top of Group C.
A Salah brace – his second from the penalty spot bringing up his milestone after just 65 games in competitions – and further goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane ensured last season's beaten finalists bounced back in style from a dramatic defeat to Napoli last time out.
There was little danger of Liverpool suffering a second straight European reverse, though, as Red Star were put to the sword at a raucous Anfield. Meanwhile, a 93rd-minute Paris Saint-Germain equaliser earned them a 2-2 draw with Napoli in the group's other game to ensure the Reds move into pole position to progress.
50 - Mohamed Salah has scored his 50th goal for Liverpool, reaching this tally in just 65 games in all competitions. King. pic.twitter.com/rpM1wrDn2o— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 24, 2018
The opening 20 minutes were littered with loose Liverpool touches and stray passes, with their defensive work similarly lax as Srdjan Babic ghosted in to volley over the top from a corner.
But the hosts' first real chance resulted in the opener. Xherdan Shaqiri dissected the Red Star defence and the advancing Andrew Robertson pulled the ball back to Firmino, whose strike deflected beyond goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Liverpool belatedly found their groove and, after Robertson blazed wide of the target, Salah got in on the act with a clinical finish high past Borjan.
A comfortable second half was then set in motion for Liverpool as Salah smashed home a contentious penalty, Mane having gone down softly under a challenge from Filip Stojkovic.
Borjan's stunning stop from a second Liverpool spot-kick briefly kept Mane at bay after El Fardou Ben was penalised for handball, but the winger soon prodded into the net to cap a positive evening for Liverpool.
What does it mean? Liverpool finally take flight
While Liverpool have so far kept pace in the Premier League this season, they have sometimes lacked the dynamism in the final third that made them such a thrilling watch last term. Klopp's men were back to their best at Anfield. After a slow start, the Reds played some glorious, flowing football. Shaqiri pulled the strings, Robertson flew forward and the trio of Firmino, Mane and Salah tore holes in the defence with their movement.
Shaqiri shapes key role
Given the form of Liverpool's front three last season, many onlookers wondered quite where new signing Shaqiri would fit into this side. They need not have worried. Klopp has made room for Shaqiri on the right, moving Salah central, and he has delivered, creating the winner at Huddersfield Town and starring again on Wednesday. Running hard without the ball and working magic with it, the midfielder already looks to be a key man.
Fabinho will need time
It should hardly come as a surprise on just Fabinho's second start in Liverpool colours, but he looked early on like a player who has not played a great deal of football of late. The midfielder was twice caught dallying on the ball and should have gone into the book for a poor challenge. The former Monaco star improved as the game wore on, but Liverpool will hope for more from the new man.
Key Opta Facts
- Liverpool have scored 48 goals in the Champions League since the start of last season, 10 more than any other side (Real Madrid next on 38).
- Red Star Belgrade have won just one of their 10 away games against English opposition (D4 L5).
- Excluding qualifiers, Liverpool are unbeaten in each of their last 17 home games in major European competitions (W12 D5), scoring 43 goals in that time.
- Since start of last season, Firmino has been directly involved in 19 Champions League goals, (12 goals, 7 assists), more than any other player.