Liverpool had to come from behind to beat Rangers on Wednesday night, with Roberto Firmino continuing his resurgent season to drag the Reds to victory and Mohamed Salah scoring the fastest ever Champions League hat-trick in six second half minutes.
Scott Arfield had given Rangers the lead inside the opening 20 minutes of the contest in Glasgow, before Firmino put a sleepy Liverpool level not long after and later scored another to go ahead. There was also a much-needed one for Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott’s first European goal.
An injury-depleted Liverpool side already reeling from another domestic setback in the Premier League at the weekend were slow out of the blocks, with Rangers edging early possession and creating more opportunities than their illustrious opponents.
Their breakthrough was fairly well deserved when it came, although Liverpool didn’t help themselves. Fabio Carvalho was caught out and Ryan Jack played in Arfield as the Red sea in front of him appeared to part, followed by a pinpoint finish to send the home fans wild, celebrating their club’s first Champions League goal (excluding qualifiers) in 12 long years.
If anything, going behind sparked Liverpool into life because the Rangers lead only last seven minutes before Firmino landed his seventh goal of a resurgent season. The Brazilian was simply stronger than James Tavernier at the near post as he flicked in from a corner.
Even so, a point blank block from Ibrahima Konate to deny Arfield a second ensured that Rangers wouldn’t go back ahead in the closing minutes before half-time.
Liverpool’s class showed 10 minutes into the second when they went ahead. Joe Gomez did his best impression of Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right flank, bending a low cross into the box for an ice cold Firmino to score between Allan McGregor’s legs.
Ultimately, Jurgen Klopp’s side were the superior side in the second half. Firmino was again involved as Nunez curled an effort beyond McGregor’s reach, latching onto the Brazilian’s improvised flick.
Then came the Salah show. The Egyptian had been rested from the start but was clearly desperate to get in on the act with three outstanding finishes in quick succession. His first was provided by fellow sub Diogo Jota, fired in from a narrow angle, with his second and third both curling efforts from very similar positions on the edge of the box, but finding opposite corners.
Elliott’s late seventh was initially disallowed by an offside flag as he turned in a rebound, but VAR intervened and the original decision was overturned.
Rangers ended the night with Champions League elimination after four straight defeats, while Liverpool will book a place in the knockout stages if they avoid defeat on matchday five.
Rangers vs Liverpool: Player ratings - Champions League
1. Rangers (4-2-3-1)
GK: Allan McGregor - 3/10 - Beaten seven times.
RB: James Tavernier (c) - 4/10 - Helped create the early breakthrough but was not strong enough to stop Firmino's equaliser.
CB: Connor Goldson - 6/10 - Had a decent first half but sadly limped off injured right before half-time.
CB: Ben Davies - 3/10 - Not the night he would have wanted against his former side.
LB: Borna Barisic - 4/10 - Played Nunez onside for the third goal that effectively killed Rangers off.
CM: Ryan Jack - 5/10 - Strong start but faded. Didn't see enough of the ball to impact the game after the opening half an hour.
CM: John Lundstram - 4/10 - No match for Fabinho in the end.
RM: Fashion Sakala - 5/10 - Looked a threat in the first half but faded.
AM: Scott Arfield - 5/10 - Took his opportunity really well, surging through the middle of the pitch. Couldn't compete in the second half.
LM: Ryan Kent - 4/10 - Disappointing against a potential weak link.
ST: Antonio Colak - 4/10 - Didn't get the service he needed.
SUB: Leon King (45' for Goldson) - 4/10
SUB: Steven Davis (60' for Jack) - 4/10
SUB: Rabbi Matondo (76' for Sakala) - N/A
SUB: Alfredo Morelos (76' for Colak) - N/A
SUB: Scott Wright (76' for Kent) - N/A
Manager: Giovanni van Bronckhorst - 5/10 - Things started superbly but his team ran out of steam and he didn't have the answers.
2. Liverpool (4-3-3)
GK: Alisson - 5/10 - Aside from being beaten early, didn't have a great deal to do for most of the match.
RB: Joe Gomez - 6/10 - Couldn't get round on the cover quickly enough to stop Arfield giving Rangers the lead. But he made the go-ahead goal.
CB: Ibrahima Konate - 7/10 - Got sucked out of position for the early opener. Made a great block just before half-time. Good in the second half.
CB: Virgil van Dijk - 6/10 - Shut Rangers down in the second half.
LB: Kostas Tsimikas - 6/10 - Put in another decent shift but will now be fighting for his place with Robertson back.
CM: Jordan Henderson (c) - 5/10 - Liverpool were at their free flowing best after he went off as Rangers tired.
CM: Fabinho - 7/10 - Controlled the game after half-time.
CM: Harvey Elliott - 8/10 - Showed great energy for 90 minutes and got his reward with a late goal.
RF: Roberto Firmino - 9/10 - Continued his great form with two very different but well-taken goals. Assisted Nunez's goal as well.
ST: Darwin Nunez - 7/10 - Hadn't done a great deal before showing great composure for a confidence boosting goal.
LF: Fabio Carvalho - 6/10 - Struggled a little at times, but was still involved.
SUB: Thiago Alcantara (67' for Henderson) - 6/10
SUB: Andrew Robertson (68' for Tsimikas) - 6/10
SUB: Mohamed Salah (68' for Nunez) - 9/10 - Got an a very high quality six-minute hat-trick off the bench, a Champions League record.
SUB: Diogo Jota (73' for Firmino) - 7/10
SUB: James Milner (79' for Konate) - 6/10
Manager: Jurgen Klopp - 7/10 - Resisted making changes until after Liverpool were 3-1 up. Arguably worked in his favour because Salah looked hungry at the thought of missing out.