BRUSSELS: European champions Liverpool claimed only their second win in their last 11 games in the group stage as they eased comfortably to a 4-1 victory over Genk in Belgium.
Liverpool had lost their four previous away games in the group stage including their opener this season against Napoli. Even so they were clear favourites to win in Belgium against opponents who had failed to win any of their 14 previous games in the competition.
Manager Jurgen Klopp made five changes from the side who started the 1:1 Premier League draw at Manchester United, omitting the sick Trent Alexander-Arnold and injured Joel Matip as well as Ginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi. Belgium forward Origi made way for the return of Mohamed Salah who had been upset at Old Trafford.
Liverpool have a busy schedule ahead, starting with a home game against Tottenham on Saturday and, in December, the disruptive trip to Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup.
Klopp, on the eve of the game, had promised an improvement in away form, saying: “We know our away games record is not historically good. We know we have to improve and we will try and try again until it works out.”
It worked out within the first three minutes. Andrew Robertson went on a decoy overlap down the left which gave Sadio Mane the space to cut inside and find Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The ex-Arsenal man scored the opening goal with a low right-foot drive from the edge of the penalty area.
Liverpool, with Naby Keita also looking to push forward out of midfield, played their usual high line in defence and might have been caught out. Dejan Lovren was embarrassed twice by a simple lobbed pass through the centre but first Mbwana Samatta shot just wide then Paul Onuachu was foiled by goalkeeper Alisson.
Genk demonstrated their counter-attacking danger again in the 26th minute. This time Samatta headed into the net only for the goal to be disallowed for offside against Junya Ito who had provided the right-wing cross.
Robertson and Salah tested the Genk defence but Liverpool wasted much of their possession with some sloppy passing in midfield. They also appeared unbalanced with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita sometimes racing beyond Firmino in their over-eagerness to attack.
Liverpool extended their control 11 minutes into the second half. Again the creatrive impulse came from Mane on the left before Oxlade-Chamberlain struck a remarkable shot with the outside of his right foot.
Genk’s enthusiasm had faded as Liverpool controlled the remainder of the game without ever playing at their best. Roberto Firmino and Salah both wasted chances to punish poor Genk passing before the Egyptian set up Mane for a third goal. Mane then returned the favour for Salah to score a fourth before Stephen Odey struck a deserved Belgian consolation.
This week’s results:
TUESDAY (Oct 22) — Gp A: Brugge 0, PSG 5; Galatasaray 0, Real Madrid 1. Gp B: Olympiacos 2, Bayern 3; Tottenham 5, Crvena Zvezda 0. Gp C: Shakhtar 2, Dinamo Zagreb 2; Man City 5, Atalanta 1. Gp D: Atletico Madrid 1, Bayer Leverkusen 0; Juventus 2, Lok Moscow 1.
WEDNESDAY (Oct 23) – Gp E: Genk 1, Liverpool 4; Salzburg 2, Napoli 3. Gp F: Inter 2, B Dortmund 0; Slavia Prague 1, Barcelona 2. Gp G: RB Leipzig 2, Zenit 1; Benfica 2, Lyon 1. Gp H: Ajax 0, Chelsea 1; Lille 1, Valencia 1.