1)Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still has the tools to fulfil his potential
Within two minutes, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had reminded the footballing world of his talent when deployed in central midfield.
There was the trademark shimmy which set it onto his right foot, and shortly after the trigger had been pulled, Gaetan Coucke was retrieving the arrowed drive from his net.
Midfielders nowadays appear to prioritise mastering the late run into the box as a source of goals, but Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first goal in 18 months demonstrated that there is still room in the game for the attempt from distance, especially in a side that prides itself on cutting defences open with pace and movement.
It appeared that he would struggle to top that moment on the night, but his first goal gave him the confidence to instinctively net an audacious and sublime second with the outside of his right foot which bounced in off the underside of the bar after Roberto Firmino’s simple pass.
Add a few more strikes that he produced tonight in whatever opportunities come his way as well as continuing to draw defences out with those energetic runs, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could be another unique weapon in Liverpool‘s midfield arsenal after a frustrating last couple of seasons with a serious knee injury.
2) Jurgen Klopp has another dominating midfield combination
Jurgen Klopp has an abundance of midfield talent to choose from as Liverpool manager, but the trio who started the game in Belgium formed an effective triumvirate.
Fabinho was able to police the majority of Genk’s attacking forays in a commanding manner, while Naby Keita was never found wanting for energy or the desire to drive forward.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s feats of the night have already been discussed, but with two players who have not seen much action lately contributing in such a considerable manner to such a dominant performance will give hope to the German of adding more strings to his bow.
Giorginio Wijnaldum, who has been in impressive form of late, Jordan Henderson and James Milner make up Klopp’s options, but the performance tonight will encourage him that his side can reach new heights as a midfield unit.
3) The ball over the top remains Liverpool’s defence’s Achilles heel
Virgil van Dijk and Alisson’s qualities range high and wide in terms of footballing ability. But yet despite all the investment to improve that area of the pitch for Liverpool, it is the duo’s recovering abilities that make them such imperious characters in their positions.
Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson’s movements forwards have helped Liverpool become one of the most merciless attacking outfits, but Jurgen Klopp’s insistence that they must thunder forward does leave gaping gaps between the fullbacks and the centre-backs.
It was a weakness that Genk opened up early on in the piece, and had the likes of Paul Onuachu and Mbwana Samatta made more of their lung-busting runs exposing the space, Liverpool could have had one or two more frights to contend with.
Tottenham will have been watching with intent.
4) Alisson is Liverpool’s man for all occasions
Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson’s first Champions League match this season may not have been the most eye-catching team news given the return of Mohamed Salah to the XI and Naby Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain starting their first UEFA Champions League matches since April 2019 and April 2018 respectively.
But what was immediately evident was that this is a player who calming effect is perhaps undervalued given the similar giant frame of van Dijk that more often than not thwarts the danger in the first place.
Samatta had galloped past all of Liverpool’s defenders after one of those aforementioned long balls, but Alisson remained unfazed and got down well to parry away the danger.
He also added vital touches to avert other potentially threatening situations from crosses with deft but effective dexterity. Klopp may have praised Adrian’s performances when standing in for Alisson, but there is no one quite like the Brazilian shot stopper.
5) VAR is still keeping fans at the game and at home in the dark
Video technology has not quite replicated the howlers that plagued some of the weekend’s Premier League action, but there are still other frustrating niggles that require ironing out.
Samatta thought he had just thumped a header in to equalise after climbing above Milner, but soon jubilation from the Genk fans had turned into ire, which was particularly evident on the face of Felice Mazzu.
While the beady-eyed spectators would have seen the referee raise his hand for an indirect free-kick, replays appeared to indicate that the reason that the goal had been disallowed was due to the raised elbow from Samatta which did make contact with Milner.
A prolonged delay then ensued while the technology determined whether the goal should stand or whether a Genk player had ventured into an offside position, but it was compounded and perhaps exacerbated by the initial confusion of the reason behind the review.
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