A win on the road in the Champions’ League Group Stage – only had to wait 2 years for it. Genk posed a bit of a threat, mainly from offside positions, but the Reds came out comfortable victors. It was a shame to not be able to see out the game with a clean sheet, but when you’ve got Dejan Lovren in the team you have to accept that goals will be scored against you. With that said, let’s get into the Man of the Match.
Not much to say on Alisson, had no real saves to make and can’t be blamed for the goal. As for the defence, Milner started the game at right-back and finished it at left-back. You know you’re not going to get the attacking quality expected from Trent and Robertson, but he put in a solid shift. Van Dijk was very impressive throughout, showing every one of his many attributes during the 90 minutes and his performance thoroughly deserved a clean sheet. Sadly, he was let down by his partner for the night, Dejan Lovren. The Croatian had looked pretty shaky for the majority of the match and capped his poor showing with an awful piece of defending late on which gifted Genk their only goal. Robertson had a game typical of his season so far, pretty wasteful going forward and not terribly convincing defensively. He did apparently pick up a knock before being taken off, though, so perhaps that had something to do with how he played.
The midfield was the main talking point leading up to the match with Henderson and Wijnaldum disappointing in recent weeks. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita were handed starts to reward the positive impact they had on the weekend at Old Trafford. Both men took their chance with both hands, with Oxlade-Chamberlain netting a brace – the second of which was truly sublime. Keita also impressed with his ability to carry the ball through midfield and his vision to find the front three in dangerous positions. Having midfielders who are able to both score and create is something we have been lacking when lining up with Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum. Fabinho, however, was back to his brilliant best tonight after a slightly disappointing performance against Man Utd. We all know what he’s about now, not only is he a rock defensively, but he can contribute to the attacking build-up as well. Against the Belgian side, he did exactly that.
Each of the front 3 were directly involved in at least one goal tonight. Both Salah and Mane got a goal and an assist, while Firmino claimed an assist as well. Firmino showed his class with some delightful touches and perfectly weighted passes, one of which was a dinked Rabona into the path of Mane. The Senegalese should have made it one of the best assists in Champions’ League history, but he couldn’t find the net with the shot. Mane’s goal came after a delightful move which included contributions from each of the front 3 before he dinked the first-time finish over the onrushing goalkeeper. He will get credit for the assist for Mo Salah’s goal, but the Egyptian did all of the work. The ball was fed into him on the edge of the box where he was tightly marked. Salah used his incredible strength to roll the defender before flicking the ball past a second Genk player and then finishing into the far corner with his right foot. Despite Salah both scoring one and creating one, he had a pretty disappointing game. Until he found the pass that led to Mane’s goal, our prolific right-winger could do virtually nothing right. His touch was off, his passing was poor, and his decision-making was all wrong. However, as he always does, even when playing poorly, he was a threat and eventually made his mark.
There were a number of good performances tonight, but Man of the Match has to go to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 2 goals on his first Champions’ League start since the 2018 semi-final at home to Roma and our first goals from outside the box since Gerrard v Olympiakos. The first of which was a perfectly placed low drive into the far bottom corner. His second was the pick of the bunch, though. After Firmino played the ball into him on the edge of the box, the Englishman hit a first-time, outside-of-the-boot effort which cannoned off the underside of the bar and into the net. It was a truly world-class strike which will, without question, be in the running for goal of the competition no matter the quality of the goals that are still to come.