Liverpool: Rampant Reds Progress In Champions League
Merseysiders in scintillating form once more as Spartak Moscow follow Maribor in conceding seven without reply...
Liverpool emphatically secured their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League for a first time in nine years on Wednesday night after a thumping 7-0 win over Spartak Moscow at Anfield.
Jürgen Klopp's side went into their final Group E encounter in top spot but knowing a defeat could see them finish third and suffer the ignominy of a drop into the Europa League.
Any nerves were settled within four minutes when Georgi Dzhikiya inexplicably clattered into Mohamed Salah, allowing Philippe Coutinho, who was named captain for the evening, to open the scoring from the spot.
It took just 10 further minutes for a second to arrive and when it did it was a goal of real quality as a beautifully worked passing move ended with Roberto Firmino squaring for Coutinho to slot home on the run.
Two became three in the 19th minute when Sadio Mané's cross fell nicely for Firmino to fire home with the outside of his right foot.
The men in red looked capable of scoring with every attack at this stage and only some poor finishing, most notably from Mané, prevented the scoreline from being even more one-sided at the interval.
Any fears of a repeat of Liverpool's last group stage game, in which they drew 3-3 at Sevilla despite also leading 3-0 at half-time, were cast aside within three minutes of the restart when Mané thumped home a spectacular, acrobatic volley.
The goal was brilliantly assisted by James Milner, who replaced the injured Alberto Moreno in first half stoppage time, and he was involved again three minutes later when Coutinho completed his hat-trick via a deflection.
Salah went close to finally getting his name on the scoresheet on the hour mark with a wonderful turn and shot but Aleksandr Selikhov did brilliantly to turn the ball around the post for a corner.
In fairness to Spartak, although woeful at the back, they did have some bright moments going forward, predominantly through one-time Reds target Quincy Promes.
The latter stages were littered with substitutions but the hosts never took their foot of the gas and they could conceivably have reached double figures by the end.
Ultimately they had to be content with seven as further goals from Mané, who did well to adjust his feet and convert a Daniel Sturridge centre, and the tireless Salah arrived in the 76th and 86th minutes respectively.
The final score represented a second 7-0 win for Liverpool in this season's competition - flowing their success at Maribor in October - and made it 23 goals in total during the group stage; a record for an English club and second overall behind Paris Saint-Germain (25).
Reflecting on a stunning evening and qualification at his post-match press conference, Klopp remarked: "With my assistants, I was sitting outside when it was 6-0 and we were looking at each other and thought, 'wow, how did that happen?' I didn't see a lot of teams losing 7-0, but even when it was 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0 they still played football, they still had their moments, they still had scoring situations somehow.
"We had to play exactly the level we played tonight to beat them and then because of the development of the game it was a high result...
"Before the game, we knew if we won we would be top of the group, so that's not the biggest surprise. I think it's really strange this year in the different groups - there are a lot of really strong teams.
"In the last 16 of the Champions League there are only strong sides, but this year it's quite special; I don't think it's very often you can face Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in the last 16 if you win the group. And Juve! And all the others! That's quite interesting.
"[Chelsea boss] Antonio Conte said it yesterday, there are no easy opponents in it. I don't think anybody is happy when they get us when they get us in the draw, so we will not be happy in the moment when we see who we will face in the next round, but we will be ready - that's for sure."
The draw for the next round will take place on Monday with Liverpool set to face FC Basel, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Porto or Real Madrid. Topping the group means they will be at home in the second leg.
Before then there is the small matter of a Merseyside derby against neighbours Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.
So that's what both us and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below...
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