Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Salah's Double Helps See Off Red Star Belgrade

Mohamed Salah scored twice to reach a half-century of Liverpool goals in a comfortable victory over Red Star Belgrade, as the Reds went top of Champions League Group C.

It was a dominant display from the hosts, Roberto Firmino firing in Andy Robertson’s cut-back on 20 minutes.

Salah got his first just before the break then added a second to reach an impressive landmark by converting a penalty won by Sadio Mane.

Mane then slotted a fourth goal with 10 minutes to go, having missed another penalty just moments before.

Goalscorers aside, Xherdan Shaqiri proved influential for the hosts – an excellent through ball to Robertson helped set up Firmino’s opener and it was the Swiss player’s flick that then assisted Salah’s first goal.

Firmino, one of five players back in the starting line-up after a depleted Reds side narrowly beat Huddersfield in the league on Saturday, marked his return with his 13th goal in 18 Champions League appearances for the club and his 10th in eight games at Anfield.

Mane was also bright – he linked up well with Salah on numerous occasions and earned his side’s first penalty when he got an arm in the face from Red Star captain Filip Stojkovic.

He made up for missing the second penalty – won when El Fardou Ben handled in the area – by sliding in to poke into the bottom corner to make it 4-0, before substitute Adam Lallana was denied a fifth from close range.

For the visitors, Srdan Babic wasted an opportunity from a set-piece when he fired over the bar but Liverpool were dominant throughout and never looked like conceding.

Red Star, bottom of the group with one point from three games, were banned from selling tickets to supporters for the game at Anfield after incidents during and after their team’s play-off round tie away to RB Salzburg on 29 August.

Shaqiri impresses as Liverpool’s mojo returns

Jurgen Klopp’s side have not looked quite themselves in recent games – narrowly beating Huddersfield, after draws with Manchester City and Chelsea and a late defeat by Napoli.

But they were definitely in the mood in this game and swept aside a Serbian team competing in the Champions League group stages for the first time in over a decade.

Summer signing from Stoke Shaqiri was excellent, and his superb through ball to Robertson was vital in the opening goal.

He retained his place in the starting XI after picking up the assist against Huddersfield, and set up Salah for the second time in five days with a clever little flick into the box before the break.

A ball over the top after 11 minutes was almost put away by Salah too before goalkeeper Milan Borjan reacted quickly to swallow it up.

Fabinho, handed his first European start in midfield, showed a glimpse of his ability when he lifted a lovely ball over the top which Trent Alexander-Arnold volleyed into the keeper’s hands.

And Mane was instrumental in attack after recovering from hand surgery to play with a cast on.

Salah’s 49th and 50th goal were greeted with roars from the Anfield crowd as the Egyptian reached his half-century in only 65 games for the club.

Klopp’s team taking shape

Enforced changes shaped Liverpool’s midfield, injuries to duo Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita meaning Fabinho and Shaqiri were given rare starts alongside Georginio Wijnaldum.

With eight of the players in the starting XI Klopp signings, there was excitement before kick-off to see how a line-up so clearly bearing his stamp would fare.

Fabinho was caught on his heels a little in the opening exchanges but grew into the game, while Wijnaldum and Shaqiri impressed yet again in their midfield roles.

In defence, big money buys Alisson and Virgil van Dijk – wearing the captain’s armband again – were the spine in an impressive defensive line-up who kept their seventh clean sheet of the season.

And Klopp’s attacking signings – Salah and Mane – were full of goals and creativity going forward.

This team, with the possible addition of Keita in midfield, could be Liverpool’s preferred XI by the end of the season.

‘I was not in doubt about Salah’

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on Salah’s goalscoring form: “It’s good that we can maybe stop talking about that a little bit. I was not in doubt, he was not in doubt, but if you are constantly asked about it, you think something is up.”

“We are not through yet. This group obviously stays exciting until the end, I think that was clear from the draw. But you cannot do more than win your own games.”

Speaking to BT Sport, he added: “It was a good football game and a deserved win. Fabinho was good from the start – Shaqiri was involved in everything. He is a really nice footballer and that helped. I thought he did really well.”

Man of the match – Xherdan Shaqiri

Firmino enjoying European nights – the best of the stats

  • 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 past 17 home games in major European competitions (W12, D5), scoring 43 goals in that time.
  • Since the start of last season, Roberto Firmino has been directly involved in 19 Champions League goals, (12 goals, 7 assists), more than any other player.
  • The Brazilian has been directly involved in 10 goals in his eight Champions League games at Anfield for the club (six goals, four assists).

What’s next?

Liverpool host Cardiff in the Premier League on Saturday (15:00 BST) hoping to extend their unbeaten run in the league. Their next European action is on Tuesday 6 November, when they travel to Serbia for the reverse fixture with Red Star (17:55 GMT).

Source – BBC Sport

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