NO MATTER how dodgy things look on the domestic front, the Champions League remains a wonderful getaway for Liverpool. 

After Roberto Firmino underlined his enduring value to Jurgen Klopp with two goals and Mo Salah eviscerated poor Rangers by arriving off the bench to grab a six-minute hat-trick, the Reds are almost certain of qualification for the knock-out stages. 

Mo Salah helped himself to a SIX-minute hat-trick as Liverpool thumped Rangers

8

Mo Salah helped himself to a SIX-minute hat-trick as Liverpool thumped RangersCredit: PA
Salah proved his class with a set of wonderful efforts

8

Salah proved his class with a set of wonderful effortsCredit: Getty

Following an opening-night mauling by Napoli, that is a decent achievement from a side which has been stuttering badly in the Premier League. 

A club who have reached ten European Cup finals, winning six of them, and which rightly regards itself as royalty in this competition, will always believe that lifting Old Big Ears is a realistic proposition. 

Klopp told his team’s supporters to book their hotels for this season’s final in Istanbul as soon as they had lost to Real Madrid in Paris in May, on a night marred by chaotic policing. 

And they are on call after prevailing in this Battle of Britain, in which one side employed heavy artillery and the other lot came armed with pop guns. 

Liverpool can afford stunning £175MILLION shock Mbappe transfer
Win a Rolex Rootbeer GMT Master II or £15k cash from 89p with our discount

Remarkably when you consider the final scoreline, Rangers led through their former Burnley midfielder Scott Arfield and were highly competitive for 45 minutes. 

But the second half was an embarrassment for the Scottish club and an absolute breeze for Klopp’s men. 

The fact they have won just twice in eight Premier League games yet netted six unanswered goals in the second period shows the vast gap between the leagues north and south of the border. 

But without Firmino it might have been a less comfortable night for Klopp.

Most assumed that the 31-year-old Brazilian would be off this summer after the arrival of a more authentic centre-forward in Darwin Nunez. 

But Firmino has scored eight goals in 12 matches so far – easily his best scoring rate of any season in his Anfield career – and after bagging the first two last night, he teed up Nunez for the third.

Then Salah, who had been rested until 20 minutes from time, scored a classy hat-trick and teenager Harvey Elliott netted the seventh as a once-raucous Ibrox quickly emptied.

For all Liverpool’s early-season struggles, their first encounter with Rangers at Anfield last week was far more comfortable than the 2-0 scoreline suggested – only Allan McGregor’s masterclass preventing a rout.

Perhaps that was why Klopp felt able to leave out Salah, ahead of Manchester City’s visit on Sunday. 

But the German’s decision to substitute his Footballer of the Year and Golden Boot winner in Sunday’s defeat at Arsenal was an odd one. 

HOW TO GET FREE BETS ON FOOTBALL

Since then, Klopp has been irritated by former Liverpool Champions League winner Didi Hamann questioning his future – the German is not used to any sort of dissent on Merseyside 

The fear in resting a couple of senior players, on the back of three injuries suffered at Arsenal, was that the bearpit atmosphere at Ibrox might prove a leveller. 

Even after three successive humpings in this group, Rangers showed far more purpose and conviction than they had done on Merseyside. 

The home support assaulted the eardrums and Giovani van Bronckhorst’s players delivered on their pre-match promise of cramping Liverpool’s style and getting into their famous faces. 

And, as is now usual, Klopp’s team went 1-0 down. 

Former Red Ryan Kent had already bent a shot wide of the far post with Liverpool’s defence standoffish. 

Then after Fabio Carvalho was robbed by Fashion Sakala, Ryan Jack slipped in a pass for Arfield to nip between Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez to rifle past Alisson into the bottom corner.  

With this stately old stadium rocking, Gomez almost gifted a quick-fire second with a stray back-pass. 

Scott Arfield had Ibrox bouncing with his opener

8

Scott Arfield had Ibrox bouncing with his openerCredit: Getty
Roberto Firmino was all smiles with two goals and an assist

8

Roberto Firmino was all smiles with two goals and an assistCredit: PA
Firmino equalised with a close-range header from a corner

8

Firmino equalised with a close-range header from a cornerCredit: AP

But Rangers’ lead would last for only seven minutes and it was a seriously soft one to concede. 

Kostas Tsimikas delivered an inswinging corner from the right and Firmino rose virtually unchallenged to head home at the near post, embarrassing McGregor and his defence. 

It felt as if that moment might change the momentum of the night but Liverpool were unable to seize on their gift. 

Klopp’s men look rattled when Rangers pressed them high and were unable to exert any real control in midfield. 

Late in the first half, Arfield was only denied a second goal by a sharp diving block from Ibrahima Konate after Sakala had tormented Tsimikas. 

Rangers centre-half Connor Goldson limped off just before half-time but after Klopp had charged down the tunnel at half-time, there was a far greater hunger about Liverpool in the second half. 

And ten minutes into it, they were in front, Gomez galloping down the right and raking a low cross to Firmino, who timed his run with accuracy and nutmegged McGregor with his first-time finish. 

That really was the moment when the ambition and belief of the home side dissolved and soon it was three.

Marks and Spencer to close 67 stores in branch shake-up over next five years
Thousands of families to get extra £130 help with bills

Fabinho won possession in midfield, Carvalho sent a cute angled pass forward and Firmino’s subtle touch allowed Nunez to finish coolly inside the far post – it was comfortably Liverpool’s best move of the night.  

Then Salah added three classy finishes in a Champions League-record six minutes and 12 seconds, the second particularly gorgeous, and Elliott – with the aid of VAR – bagged one which would have meant a lot to the kid, but little to the overall storyline.  

The Brazilian made it 2-1 with a fine finish after Joe Gomez's cross

8

The Brazilian made it 2-1 with a fine finish after Joe Gomez’s crossCredit: PA
Darwin Nunez made his tidy effort look easy as he found the bottom corner

8

Darwin Nunez made his tidy effort look easy as he found the bottom cornerCredit: Getty
Salah was desperate for Harvey Elliott's goal to stand

8

Salah was desperate for Harvey Elliott’s goal to standCredit: Reuters



Source link