Liverpool Return To Group E Summit With 2-1 Genk Win
Liverpool climbed to the top of the Group E table with a 2-1 win over Genk at Anfield.
Goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain sufficed for the Reds, despite the concession of a goal to Mbwana Samatta.
Having started the game in second place, Napoli’s 1-1 draw with Salzburg in Italy means Jurgen Klopp’s men will be top when they entertain Carlo Ancelotti’s side on match day 5 on November 27th.
Electing to make wholesale changes — six in total from the Premier League victory over Aston Villa — the defending champions showed no lack of fluency in the early exchanges.
James Milner came in for Andy Robertson, Fabinho replaced Adam Lallana, Naby Keita started instead of Sadio Mane, Divock Origi took Firmino’s place and Joe Gomez lined up next to Virgil van Dijk in the stead of Dejan Lovren in Klopp’s reshuffle.
However, despite territorial dominance and the overwhelming lions share of the possession, the opening goal was not forthcoming in the opening 10 minutes with the final ball proving elusive.
The Belgians resistance, after an extended period of Red clad pressure, was broken after 14 minutes.
Divock Origi, who started on the left side of a front three, played an intelligent pass into the left hand channel for James Milner to take the ball into the box. The Englishman, who was named to play to left back, then crossed across the face of goal. After a fortuitous bobble, Wijnaldum reacted opportunistically — taking advantage of the hesitance of the Genk defenders — and finished neatly with an improvised scoop into the roof of the net.
Boosted by their goal, and with Naby Keita and Oxlade Chamberlain — who started the game as the false 9 in the hosts 433 formation — progressing the ball sharply through the centre of the pitch, the Reds attacked and attacked but their efforts were frustrated by their own inability to convert chances.
Liverpool’s press, lead by the impressive Fabinho, kept the visitors hemmed into their own half for large periods of the fist half. When the Belgian Champions did manage to break out, they crowned it with a goal.
Samatta, who was on the periphery of the game, met a Bryan Heynen corner powerfully to nod home the equalising goal totally against the run of play.
The half time whistle sounded with the score at 1-1, which was a scantly deserved scoreline for Genk given the dominance they had been subjected to.
The second half saw no let up from the Reds as they buccaneered forward at every opportunity.
Mohamed Salah, who had a frustrating night in front of goal, turned provider when he showed vision, calmness and technique in spades when he teed up Oxlade Chamberlain for the lead.
Pausing with the ball and holding off would be tackles, Salah found Oxlade Chamberlain at the opportune moment with a pass just inside the box. The Englishman then proceeded to smash a left footed shot into the bottom corner and past Gaëtan Coucke.
The goal was Oxlade Chamberlain’s third against the Belgian’s in two games.
Perhaps with their minds on the crunch clash with Manchester City on Sunday, Liverpool played much of the remainder of the second half in second gear and a laxness crept into their game.
Midfielder Heynan almost drew Felice Mazzu’s team level late on, but Alisson, with the only save of note he had to make, was equal to it and confidently pushed the shot away.
Chances came for the Reds to extend their lead, with Genk — pushing forward for a leveller — susceptible on the counter attack, but wasteful finishing, mainly from Salah, kept the score at 2-1.
The Belgians huffed and puffed but all their efforts were in vain as the more streetwise Liverpool saw the game out and collected the win.
Liverpool team; Alisson, Alexander Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Milner; Fabinho, Keita, Wijnaldum; Salah, Oxlade Chamberlain, Origi.
Substitutions: Robertson for Keita, Firmino for Origi, Mane for Oxlade Chamberlain.
Subs not used: Lallana, Adrian, Lovren, Jones.