NO MATTER how dodgy things look on the home front, the Champions League remains a wonderful short break for Liverpool.
After Roberto Firmino underscored his enduring value for Jurgen Klopp with two goals and Mo Salah gutted poor Rangers by coming on from the bench to score a six-minute hat-trick, the Reds are all but certain to opt for the to qualify in the knockout stages.
After losing to Napoli on opening night, it’s a decent performance from a side who have stuttered badly in the Premier League.
A club that have reached ten European Cup finals and won six of them, and rightly consider themselves royalty in the competition, will always believe lifting Old Big Ears is realistic.
Klopp urged his team’s supporters to book their hotels for the season finale in Istanbul as soon as they lost to Real Madrid in Paris in May, on a night marred by chaotic police.
And they’re on call, having prevailed in that Battle of Britain, in which one side used heavy artillery and the other was armed with pop cannons.
Remarkably considering the end result, Rangers led through their former Burnley midfielder Scott Arfield and were very competitive for 45 minutes.
But the second half was an embarrassment for the Scottish club and an absolute no-brainer for Klopp’s men.
The fact that they have won just twice in eight Premier League games but scored six unanswered goals in the second half shows the huge gulf between the leagues north and south of the border.
But without Firmino, it might have been a less comfortable night for Klopp.
Most expected the 31-year-old Brazilian to be out this summer following the arrival of a more authentic centre-forward at Darwin Nunez.
But Firmino has scored eight goals in 12 games so far – by far the best scoring tally of any season of his Anfield career – and after scoring the first two last night he met Nunez for the third.
Then Salah, rested until 20 minutes from time, scored an elegant hat-trick and teenager Harvey Elliott scored the seventh as a once-roaring Ibrox quickly ran out.
For all Liverpool’s struggles at the start of the season, their first encounter with Rangers at Anfield last week was far more comfortable than the 2-0 result would have suggested – only Allan McGregor’s master class averted defeat.
Perhaps that’s why Klopp felt able to skip Salah ahead of Manchester City’s visit on Sunday.
But the German’s decision to replace his Footballer of the Year and Golden Boot winner in Sunday’s defeat by Arsenal was an odd one.
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Fear resting a couple of high-level players after three injuries sustained at Arsenal was that the bear pit atmosphere at Ibrox could prove to be an equaliser.
Even after three consecutive humps in that group, Rangers showed far more determination and conviction than they had on Merseyside.
The home support attacked the eardrums and Giovani van Bronckhorst’s players made good on their pre-game promise to cramp Liverpool’s style and get in their famous faces.
And as usual, Klopp’s team went back 0-1.
Former Red Ryan Kent had already deflected a shot wide of the far post as Liverpool’s defense was distanced.
After Fashion Sakala’s Fabio Carvalho was robbed, Ryan Jack slipped in a pass for Arfield to step in between Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, firing past Alisson into the bottom corner.
With that stately old stadium swing, Gomez almost gifted a quick fire second with a stray back pass.
But Rangers’ lead would only last seven minutes, and it was a seriously soft concede.
Kostas Tsimikas delivered a corner kick from the right and Firmino rose virtually unchallenged to go home at the near post, embarrassing McGregor and his defence.
It felt like this moment could change the momentum of the night but Liverpool failed to capitalize on their gift.
Klopp’s men look at a loss as Rangers pushed them up and couldn’t exert any real control in midfield.
Late in the first half, Arfield was denied only a second goal by a sharp dive block from Ibrahima Konate after Sakala tormented Tsimikas.
Rangers centre-back Connor Goldson limped away just before half-time but after Klopp stormed down the tunnel at half-time there was a far greater hunger for Liverpool in the second half.
And after ten minutes they were ahead, Gomez cantering right and raking a low cross to Firmino, who stopped his run with accuracy and passed McGregor with his first finish.
That was really the moment when the ambition and faith of the home side dissolved and soon it was three.
Fabinho won the ball in midfield, Carvalho sent a sweet diagonal pass forward and Firmino’s subtle touch allowed Nunez to finish coolly at the far post – it was easily Liverpool’s best move of the night.
Then Salah added three stylish finishes in a Champions League record six minutes and 12 seconds, the second particularly nice, and Elliott – with the help of VAR – bagged one that would have meant a lot to the youngster but little to the whole Story .
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6429415/rangers-liverpool-mo-salah-hat-trick-champions-league/ Rangers 1 Liverpool 7: Super-sub Mo Salah scores fastest hat-trick ever in Champions League with stunning SIX MINUTE blitz