LIVERPOOL (Reuters) – Liverpool put their recent stutters behind them to comfortably beat Rangers 2-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday and move into second spot in Group A.
The win, thanks to a sumptuous first-half free kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold and a second-half penalty by Mohamed Salah, put the six-times European champions on six points after three games – three points behind leaders Napoli.
The Scots, who barely threatened Liverpool to the disappointment of their passionate fans complete with a bagpipe-player, remain bottom of the group on zero points.
In need of a morale booster after their poor start to the Premier League, Liverpool’s four-man attack of Salah, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez swarmed over Rangers from the off. By contrast, the visitors’ Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos was largely isolated.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp was delighted by his team’s tidy and confident performance, albeit against obviously weaker opposition, especially the first goal from Alexander-Arnold whom he had defended from recent criticism.
Alexander-Arnold, whose chances of making England’s World Cup squad are in the balance after recent below-par displays, struck a superb free kick over the wall and past Rangers keeper Allan McGregor in the seventh minute to raise the roof off Anfield.
“All that matters is performing for the team. It’s been a slow start to the season but I’m looking forward to the rest of the season,” said Alexander-Arnold, who drew a standing ovation when he was substituted late in the game.
“The performance was great from the lads. On Saturday, it was disappointing. It was the complete opposite today,” he added, referring to Liverpool’s 3-3 home draw with Brighton at the weekend.
GULF IN LEAGUES
Liverpool’s Nunez could have had a hat-trick in the first half as McGregor pulled off four saves in succession from the Uruguayan striker.
But it was Salah who scored the second from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute after Diaz was brought down in the box.
The so-called “Battle of Britain” clash underlined the gulf in quality between the top flight divisions in England and Scotland.
Rangers looked drained and exhausted trying to stem Liverpool’s attacks as the intuitive Thiago Alcantara blocked attacks and fed through balls from midfield.
Virgil van Dijk, who has been in the firing line for Liverpool’s leaky defence of late, was barely troubled at the back, although Rangers substitute Rabbi Matondo did force a goal line clearance from Kostas Tsimikas in the dying minutes.
“We are competing against one of the best sides in Europe. The level we face is very high and the level we have today wasn’t good enough to get something out of the game,” said Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
The former Netherlands midfielder praised his side, however, for limiting Liverpool to two goals and for an improved second-half performance. “We will learn from this game,” he said, singling out goalkeeper McGregor for a strong performance.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said the win was a relief after recent pressure on the team, who sit an uncharacteristic ninth in the Premier League and lost their opening Group A clash to Napoli.
“It felt good out there,” he said.
“You try to not listen to social media, especially when you’re going through a tough period as a team. But it can be difficult, it can hurt. You have to try and find a way to use that as fuel when you get out on the pitch.”
(Reporting by Andrew CawthorneEditing by Toby Davis)