Liverpool took a huge step towards qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League with a thumping 5-0 win away to Atalanta.
A hat-trick from Diogo Jota as well as a goal apiece from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah crowned a performance of attacking brilliance from the Reds. Had it not been for poor finishing and the form of Marco Sportiello in the host’s goals, the English champions would have won by a bigger margin.
From the offset, it was clear that Liverpool were intent on attacking and they almost had their first goal in the opening few minutes. Jota skillfully dribbled his way into the box, but the in-form Portuguese couldn’t keep his composure and he shot straight at Sportiello.
The Reds were dominant in the opening ten minutes and forced Sportiello into another save when Sadio Mané’s powerful left-footed shot was pushed over the bar.
The home team had their first moment of attacking intent not long after when Luis Muriel latched onto a quickly taken free-kick but the Colombian fired weakly at Alisson. Barring that moment, the young defensive shield of Rhys Williams and Joe Gomez were brilliant throughout.
The game returned to its normal flow of Red ascendancy when Curtis Jones’ driving run filleted through the Italians defence. Bursting into the box, the young Scouser didn’t shoot with conviction and the opportunity was wasted.
It didn’t take long for Jones to make amends, though, as he supplied the assist to the opening goal. The academy product threaded a pass into the pass of Jota and, with his second bite of the cherry, the Portuguese made no mistake as he calmly lifted the ball over Sportiello with his left foot for a more than deserved goal for the visitors.
It didn’t take long for one to become two and it was from same source. Jota expertly controlled Gomez long pass on a second phase set-piece on his left foot. Swivelling in the box, the former Wolves man then hammered a right footed shot low and beyond Sportiello.
Well in control, Liverpool almost made it three when Mané forced Sportiello into another stop with a curling shot from distance. There was only one team happy with the half time whistle, and that was the beleaguered Italians.
And if Atalanta had a tough time in the first half, the second period started off on the same note.
After a weak corner from Papu Gomez was cleared into the path of Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian powered up the pitch with Atalanta having to commit men forward. Cutting back onto his trusty left foot, Salah bent a shot past Sportiello for 3-0.
The number 11 turned provider only a few minutes later when his exquisite left-footed through ball found Mané and the Senegalese star left the ball over the overworked Sportiello with his left foot to take the score to 4-0 to the English champions.
The relentless wave of Reds pressure produced another as Jota completed his hat-trick after being sent in behind by Mané and rounding the keeper before tapping into an empty net.
Atalanta kept plugging away and almost had a consolation goal when Duvan Zapata hit a ferocious drive off the post.
With five substitutes available to him, Jurgen Klopp elected for a triple change with 25 minutes remaining. Naby Keita, James Milner, and Roberto Firmino replaced Robertson, Jota, and Henderson.
With all the changes on both sides distorting the game’s flow, it became scrappy. Alisson made two strong saves from Zapata and Salah ought to have scored when went through one on one with Sportiello, likewise Mané who headed straight at the Italian.
Kostas Tsimikas and Neco Williams made their European debuts for the club, replacing Trent Alexander Arnold and the impressive Georginio Wijnaldum, which — including Curtis Jones, Rhys Williams and Alexander Arnold made it four academy graduates on the pitch for the Reds during the course of the game.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Gomez, Williams, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones, Salah, Jota, Mané.
Replacements: Keita for Robertson, Williams for Alexander Arnold, Tsimikas for Wijnaldum, Firmino for Jota, Milner for Henderson.