Ox on the double as Liverpool win in Genk
|(Stephen Odey 88)||(Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 2, 57, Sadio Mane 77, Mohamed Salah 87)|
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made the most of a rare start by scoring twice while Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah also netted as holders Liverpool eased to a 4-1 win over Genk in their Champions League clash in Belgium on Thursday morning (Oct 24, Singapore time).
The England international, who missed almost all of last season due to injury, opened the scoring in the second minute at the Luminus Arena and scored the visitors’ second – a sumptuous finish also from outside the box – just before the hour mark.
Mane and Salah then set up each other for late goals to wrap up the victory before substitute Stephen Odey pulled one back for Genk.
“It’s a special tournament to play in. It was great to see the boys do so well last year, being on the bench at the end and watching the boys bring it home,” Oxlade-Chamberlain, an unused substitute in last year’s final win, told BT Sport.
“It’s nice to be back in the starting line-up and to get a couple of goals is a bonus.”
This was Liverpool’s second consecutive victory in Group E since they began their defence of the trophy with a 2-0 loss at Napoli. They remain a point behind group leaders Napoli, who won 3-2 at Salzburg.
It was also an overdue away win at this stage of the competition for Juergen Klopp’s side, who had won just once in seven away group-stage matches before this trip.
They went all the way last season despite losing all three away group games.
Klopp used this game to give starts to several players who have been on the fringes recently, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dejan Lovren coming into a team deprived of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip in defence.
Naby Keita was given a run-out, while Salah also returned after missing the weekend draw at Manchester United because of an ankle injury.
However, it was Oxlade-Chamberlain who got the visitors off to the perfect start with a goal from their first attempt, his right-foot strike from 25 metres finding the bottom-left corner with the aid of a slight deflection.
It was difficult not to fear for Genk after that, but the Belgian champions were defending a decent record at home in the Champions League group stage.
They had drawn their last five home matches taking in appearances in 2011-12 and back in 2002-03.
Among the teams unable to win here in that time were Real Madrid, Valencia and Chelsea, while Napoli drew 0-0 here recently.
Genk denied equaliser
Genk were encouraged by an extremely high Liverpool defensive line which almost allowed their skipper Mbwana Ally Samatta to grab a quick-fire equaliser.
The Tanzanian ran from halfway all the way to the penalty area only to fire wide of Alisson’s far post. His strike partner, Paul Onuachu, and Japanese international Junya Ito both squandered chances soon after.
Genk were also unlucky – they thought they had drawn level before the half-hour when Samatta headed in an Ito cross. However, the Slovenian referee disallowed the goal and a VAR review confirmed Ito was marginally offside in the build-up.
Still, Liverpool looked like scoring almost every time they attacked, with an outrageous Roberto Firmino touch setting up Mane for a shot that was saved by Gaetan Coucke.
Firmino was the provider of the second goal in the 57th minute as he laid the ball back for Oxlade-Chamberlain to send a first-time effort on the outside of his right boot off the underside of the bar and in from 20 metres.
That was Liverpool’s 200th Champions League goal, but it was not their last of the night, as Salah slipped in Mane for a dinked finish to make it 3-0 77 minutes.
Mane then returned the favour by supplying Salah with his back to goal just inside the box three minutes from time. The Egyptian turned away superbly from Carlos Cuesta and slotted in.
Another Liverpool win when these teams meet again at Anfield next month will leave Klopp’s men on the brink of the last 16. – AFP