Liverpool saw out a narrow 2-1 win over Genk in the Champions League on Tuesday night, bolstering their chances of qualification to the last 16 while rarely getting out of second gear.
A rotated Reds side were aiming to replicate the sort of result they had achieved in Belgium in the reverse fixture, a dominant 4-1 victory in October. It was a quick start from Jurgen Klopp's team, who took the lead when Georginio Wijnaldum's improvised flick found its way past Genk keeper Gaetan Coucke, with only 14 minutes on the clock.
However, the Belgians had other ideas, Mbwana Samatta's near-post header from a corner drawing the visitors level against the run of play.
Liverpool restored the balance in the second half, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain once more proving to be the thorn in Genk's side. The midfielder swivelled in the box, after some neat set-up play from Mohamed Salah, and struck low and hard into the bottom corner on his weaker left side, scoring his third Champions League goal of the season.
As the game drew to a nervy end, Genk showed promise and made life difficult for the reigning European champions. However, Liverpool managed to see the match out and pick up a vital three points.
Here is 90min's breakdown of this clash:
Key Talking Point
Liverpool rested several players, including the key figures of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, ahead of their huge title clash with Manchester City on Sunday. It seemed to have little effect, with the hosts grabbing an early goal to settle any potential nerves and take control of the encounter within a quarter of an hour. However, Jurgen Klopp's side were guilty of switching off defensively yet again, conceding from a poorly defended corner.
The Reds seemed to be playing the game at walking pace, and whilst they received little resistance from Genk, it proved costly with the home side unable to showcase their dynamic best. It was a solid if unspectacular first-half performance from Liverpool, but their inability to kill the game off at 1-0, made what looked a routine victory unnecessarily difficult.
Liverpool hadn't really stepped up a gear as they came out for an important second half of European football, but they found the lead through another fine Oxlade-Chamberlain strike. The Englishman was played through the middle in the first half but continued to impress after being moved to the left-hand side after the break.
The Reds will be disappointed with their conviction in the final third, continually failing to put the game to bed, and if the visiting side had been a little more imaginative, they could have grabbed themselves a point.
Three points but unconvincing performance overall. Lacked tempo & poor decision making in the final third. Berge impressive for Genk. Oxlade-Chamberlain put his hand up for a start vs City. Liverpool now sit top of group E after Napoli and Salzburg draw, one point ahead of Napoli— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) November 5, 2019
Klopp will not be best pleased with how hard his side made this game, but at the end of the day, the result will be all that matters, as Liverpool pursue qualification from Group E.
Starting XI: Alisson (5); Alexander-Arnold (6), Gomez (4), Van Dijk (6), Milner (6); Fabinho (6), Wijnaldum (7), Keita (6); Oxlade-Chamberlain (8*), Origi (6), Salah (7)
Substitutes: Robertson (5), Mane (5), Firmino (N/A)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put in another stellar European performance, sending a strong message to Jurgen Klopp before Sunday's enormous clash. The Ox added another beautiful goal to the two he netted against Genk in Liverpool's previous Champions League outing.
With his fitness getting better and better, Chamberlain offers the manager a real selection dilemma, especially with the calibre of performance the midfielder has been able to provide in recent weeks.
I don’t see any reason not to start Ox vs Man City on Sunday. He’s been popping in the goals when it matters and seems undroppable so far.— Sam (@SamueILFC) November 5, 2019
4 goals in his last 3 starts. Has to start for me. pic.twitter.com/OEBY6nvbL5
Chamberlain brilliant. So industrious, so influential, so damn brilliant on the ball. Lovely turn/shot for his goal & well deserved for yet another strong display. Needs to start vs City. Panic whenever he sits down for more than 10 seconds to marvel at how good he is.— Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) November 5, 2019
Fine feet from Mohamed Salah is met with a super turn and finish from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose performance has deserved that goal. Four in his last three starts now.— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) November 5, 2019
2-1 to #LFC
Starting XI: Coucke (5); Maehle (6), Cuesta (6), Dewaest (6), Lucumi (5), De Norre (6); Heynen (5), Berge (7), Hrosovsky (5); Ito (6), Samatta (6)
Substitutes: Ndongala (5) Bongonda (N/A), Onuachu (N/A)
Liverpool face a gargantuan clash with Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday, a mouthwatering fixture which holds great significance in the destiny of the Premier League title. This is the Reds' final game before a timely breather for Klopp's side, with the international break nearing.