Liverpool 2 - 1 Genk
Liverpool: Wijnaldum 14’, Oxlade-Chamberlain 53’
Genk: Samata 41’
A win tonight either puts Liverpool top of Group E, or needing a single point out of the next two matches from qualifying, depending on the Napoli-Salzburg result. Of course the first part of that equation is the most important: the winning bit. Klopp makes an uncharacteristically high six changes tonight, but you wouldn’t say it’s a week line-up. Joe Gomez and James Milner come in for Dejan Lovren and Andy Robertson at the back. Fabinho returns to the six, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, and Divock Origi all come in to bolster the midfield and attack (your guess how Kloppo will run these lads out is as good as mine). If needed Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino can be called upon for goals off the bench. And Curtis Jones was rewarded for last week’s strong sub performance with a spot on the bench as well tonight.
It’s a very controlled opening fifteen or so minutes from Liverpool. Despite several opportunities to play in behind the Genk defense, the home side is choosing to maintain possession and wait for their opportunities which...
GOAL! Milner takes advantage of a very generous defensive line (and even more generous defensive marking) to make himself available for a pass into the box by Origi. His initial cross is cut out, but the deflection falls to Georginio Wijnaldum. It was a close-range finish, but he does fantastically well to put the bouncing ball on target despite an awkward angle and body positioning.
That goal really got Liverpool’s tails up. The hosts create a few good chances in short order, including a long run by Salah (resulting in a booking for the defender and free kick from the edge of the box), and a pair of shots from Keita. Liverpool look far more likely to score a second (and third) than to be pegged back at this point.
Scary moment in the thirty-fifth minute after Ox goes down from a nasty challenge and stays down. To their credit Genk kick it out of play, and thankfully it doesn’t appear to be anything too serious. Ox is back up and running, no problemo. Meanwhile Salah is giving these defenders an absolute nightmare. He hasn’t come particularly close to scoring yet, but he’s been a constant threat, especially as the half wears on.
With about five to play in the half, Genk make just about their first venture into Liverpool’s half. Alexander-Arnold does fantastically well to cut out a very dangerous cross, putting it out for a corner...
Goal. Wow. And that’s football for you. Genk score on their first shot of the night, on target or otherwise. It’s a well-worked corner, attacking the front post and getting a free header. Alisson had no chance.
Just before the halftime whistle, Van Dijk sends a header off a Liverpool corner just wide of the post. Liverpool’s recent inability to take their chances (and worse, allow their opponents to take theirs) is causing them problems yet again tonight. It’s a dominant performance by any measure, except for that all-important scoreline. That said, more of the same should see them through in the second half.
No changes from Kloppo at the half, and the Reds start the half by doing what they’ve been doing: dominating this match. Origi looks particularly interested in making a difference, forcing a good save with a well-hit, curling effort from distance.
GOAL! Ox’s rich vein of goal scoring continues! Origi does well to drive to the byline and send in a cross, but it’s cleared out to Fabinho. The Brazilian’s header finds Salah, who lays it off to Ox, and the English midfield finishes with a hard, low shot with his left foot.
On the hour mark, Liverpool continue pushing for that third goal which should well and truly put this tie to bed. Even Van Dijk has gotten into the business of attacking, and not just on corners, either.
With about twenty to play, Klopp makes a double change, bringing on Robertson and Mane for Keita and Ox. The hosts haven’t been creating much in the last ten or fifteen minutes, but they’ve also not given Genk a sniff. This might just have to be another to match to see out instead of one to stretch the game in search of that killer blow.
Of course I spoke too soon! Genk fashion a big chance for themselves when the defense just turns off, leaving Heynen in acres of space in the box. Thankfully Alisson is equal to the challenge, pushing the shot wide and out of danger.
Things are getting stretched as regulation time winds down. So Klopp brings on his best defender, Roberto Firmino. Divock Origi wins a corner with his final touch, making way for Bobby and his 1000-watt smile.
This 2-1 felt a lot better than the last 2-1. Of course it was tighter than it needed to be, but that’s football for you sometimes. That’s this Liverpool for you, oftentimes. And with a draw in the other match, Liverpool finish Matchday 4 top of Group E.