Liverpool won their first Champions League group away game since 2017 with a 4-1 win away to Genk tonight.
A brace from Alex Oxlade Chamberlain as well as goals for Sadio Mane and the returning Mohamed Salah sufficed for the Reds. Substitute Stephen Odey added a late consolation for the hosts, but the gulf in class between the two sides was evident throughout.
Manager Jurgen Klopp elected to make five changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday, with Naby Keita, Oxlade Chamberlain, James Milner, Dejan Lovren and Salah all coming into the European Champions’ team.
The lack of craft and goals in the Anfield side’s midfield is often a point of contention and debate, but Oxlade Chamberlain showed his goal scoring capabilities after barely two minutes.
Collecting a pass from Roberto Firmino, the England international arrowed a trademark long range shot into the bottom corner past Gaëtan Coucke for 1-0.
The goal seemed to have a lulling effect on the Reds as sloppy play marked most of the remainder of the first half.
Coucke parred away a Mané shot after the Senegalese star was beautifully teed up by Firmino, but the best chance of the half was for the home side. Being played onside by Dejan Lovren, towering Nigerian striker Paul Onuachu was the beneficiary of a long ball up field. The 6’7″ forward bore down on Alisson Becker’s goal, but a combination of fill right back Milner and Alisson’s quickness off his line forced the Nigerian to tamely hit his shot for the Brazilian to save.
Genk, having scant possession, pressed with what little ball they had but their attempts were scuppered by Liverpool’s well organized offside trap. Tanzanian striker Mbwana Ally Samatta who the ball in the net midway through the first half, as he powered over Milner to nod a header home. However, in the build up Japanese winger Junya Ito was offside and the goal was correctly ruled offside.
The second half was played in the same manner to the first; the European Champions dominating possession and keeping the Belgian’s pinned in their own half.
The impressive Keita was seeing a lot of ball and the Guinean played a key role in the Reds second. The midfielder dug out an impressive pass to find Firmino in the box. The Brazilian then laid it back to Oxlade Chamberlain who — from just outside the box — beautifully used the outside of his foot to curl a shot into the top corner off the crossbar.
At 2-0, the game was over but that didn’t stop the visitors appetite for more goals. Much has been made about the apparent spat between Salah and Mane, but that narrative was shown to be nonsense when the Egyptian crafted the third goal for the former Southampton winger.
Showing strength and vision, Salah held off the attention of a Genk defender before slipping the ball to Mane just inside the box. With trademark composure, the number 10 delicately lifted the ball over the onrushing Coucke for 3-0.
Despite the assist, it wasn’t a trademark display from the Egyptian King — with some of his touches and decisions poor on the night, but understandable given it was his first match back from injury — but he proved that form is temporary and class is permanent when he netted the fourth.
Once again, showing admirable core strength, the Premier League record holder for most games in a 38 game season held off 6’1″ defender Jhon Lucumi before finishing cooly with his weaker right foot.
The goals were not done there, however, and the home fans — who had so graciously applauded Divock Origi, a former Genk academy player, upon his introduction as a sub — were rewarded for their support with a goal.
A Lovren mistake on the left hand touchline let Genk in and Odey finished low past Alisson for a late consolation.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Milner, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Oxlade Chamberlain, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Subs: Gomez for Robertson, Wijnaldum for Oxlade Chamberlain, Origi for Firmino.
Subs not used: Adrian, Lallana, Henderson, Brewster.