Liverpool ran out comfortable winners against a Red Star side that struggled to cope with the gulf in class. The Reds now take top spot in Group C after PSG and Napoli played out a 2-2 draw in Paris.
A Champions League game that felt like a friendly
The Champions League is a competition that theoretically pits the best that Europe has to offer against one another. However, Liverpool found the game a breeze and the gulf in class was enormous.
It ended up being a routine match for the Klopp’s side as they overcame a team that would probably struggle to make it in the Premier League. The Reds therefore took the opportunity to give Fabinho his second start of the season and allow Shaqiri to show his ability in midfield.
Liverpool might not have been tested too much but they will have welcomed the opportunity to fine-tune their tactics for the matches ahead. Jurgen Klopp will take comfort from the fact that Fabinho and Shaqiri look to be very good options in midfield and that Salah was in good form as he got himself a brace.
A snip at £13m, it was expected that Xherdan Shaqiri would just be a back-up player for Mo Salah. However, the long-term injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has left a gap for another player to fill the void as an attacking midfielder.
With Lallana also injured and Wijnaldum now playing a deeper role for Liverpool an opportunity arose for Shaqiri. Against Red Star he shone in the role as he caused havoc for the Serbian’s defence and midfield.
Shaqiri constantly shifted his position during the match making it very difficult for him to be marked. His tenacity in midfield allowed him to win the ball back and play a fantastic ball for Robertson as he assisted the first goal. Shaqiri then produced an excellent flick to Salah as he laid on the second goal.
If Shaqiri can continue to impress in this new role then he can be a fantastic option for Liverpool. More importantly though is that the loss of Oxlade-Chamberlain will be much less impactful.
Fabinho adds something extra
It’s taken some time for Fabinho to adapt to life at Liverpool just as it did Andy Robertson. However, the Brazilian looked at home in an albeit comfortable match. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging for the Reds and as Klopp pointed out before this game he kept Gundogan out of his Dortmund team for six months and he turned out alright.
It’s been a long time since Liverpool had a hard-tackling midfielder in their team. Despite not necessarily needing to put himself about that much Fabinho saw the match as an opportunity to impress.
The midfielder was aggressive and decisive in his play as he consistently won the ball back for Liverpool and played the ball forward for his teammates to launch attacks.
Fabinho needs to be tested against more top-level opponents but definitely impressed tonight.
Red Star Unlucky at Times
Red Star will feel hard done by despite being outplayed. Both decisions to award a penalty against them were questionable whilst the defence did a decent job of keeping Liverpool at bay.
To compound Red Star’s annoyance, the referee seemed to consistently favour the home side as the vast majority of free-kicks, fouls, penalty decisions and even corners went Liverpool’s way.
The referee’s decision making clearly made the game more difficult for the Serbian side but the players’ reactions further compounded that. The frustration of the players led to them losing their focus and earning more yellow cards than they otherwise would have.
It was a difficult evening for Red Star but the reverse fixture should allow them to right some wrongs. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Red Star achieved a respectable 0-0 draw at home to Napoli who look to be very strong this season.
An Interesting Night for Milan Borjan
Milan Borjan, the Red Star goalkeeper, was always going to be in for a tough match against Liverpool and he was certainly in the thick of the action.
Some of his goalkeeping during the match was questionable as he seemed to dive out the way for a couple of Liverpool’s goals. However, he did produce a great save to deny Sadio Mané from the penalty spot despite being beaten by a Salah penalty earlier in the match.
Borjan seems to be something of a weak link for Red Star and it gave Liverpool confidence having seen the ‘keeper faulter in the early stages of the game. That being said, he did manage to make a few saves when presented with one-on-one situations. His performance was very inconsistent though as the match progressed.
Red Star and Borjan will be hoping the goalkeeper is much less involved when the teams meet in the next matchday of the Champions League at the Rajko Mitic Stadium.