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Liverpool qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League as winners of Group E after a 7-0 win over Spartak Moscow at Anfield on Wednesday night.
The Reds needed a win to secure top spot, and it never looked in doubt as Philippe Coutinho scored a hat-trick and Sadio Mane hit a brace, while Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah also found the net.
Things were also more secure in defence, as manager Jurgen Klopp brought defenders Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno and Joe Gomez back into the starting XI:
Yet defensive excellence wasn’t what stood out about Klopp’s team in first half.
Instead, the Reds were three up in 18 minutes thanks to a brace from Coutinho and a fine finish from Firmino. It was Coutinho who gave Liverpool the lead from the penalty spot, before the front four combined brilliantly to double the advantage.
First, Firmino picked out Mane on the run. He fed fellow winger Salah, who returned the ball to Firmino to roll in Coutinho for his second. The goal proved a landmark one for Liverpool’s classy No. 10, per Sky Sports Statto:
Firmino made it three moments later, when he prodded in a deft finish to set his own club-best mark, per OptaJoe:
Liverpool’s rapid and artful forward line was performing brilliantly, rotating positions and exchanging passes at pace. The group missed a golden chance to net a fourth before the break when Firmino slid in Sane after a sweet turn in midfield. Salah intelligently backheeled to Mane, but the latter blazed over.
It didn’t long for Mane to make amends after the restart when he met a cross from James Milner with a thunderous and acrobatic volley. Milner, who had come on when left-back Moreno hobbled off during the first half, was the creative source again when he picked out Coutinho to complete a hat-trick, albeit with the aid of a deflection.
The latter goal helped Liverpool set a new scoring benchmark for their nation at this stage:
There was still time for more goals, with Mane tapping in after being teed up by Firmino’s replacement, Daniel Sturridge. Salah completed the scoring as Liverpool reinforced their place as arguably the most dynamic attacking side in the tournament.
Defensively, there are still questions, but few teams will want to have to deal with Coutinho, Mane and Co. in the last 16.