By Lewis Rooke – @LV_Rooke
Do you see that zing? Do you remember that zing? Liverpool well and truly found their mojo again in the Champions League against Red Star Belgrade, with the Reds notoriously slick passing game and zippy one-two play returning to muscle memory, and what a welcome return it was too.
Whilst Jurgen Klopp’s men returned to form in Europe’s top competition, how did it look from the Kop?
The atmosphere was bubbling outside Anfield before kick-off, but there was a slightly different tone this night. With no Serbians travelling to Liverpool this meant that the atmosphere outside the stadium was slightly subdued with no opposition fans to bounce off, which for a Champions League night is a very unusual scenario indeed.
Inside the stadium, however, it was another matter. In what would usually be a swarm of hostile opposition fans, the Annie Road End was soaked with Liverpool red – turning the stand into an almost ‘mini-Kop’, who really did play their part all throughout the game.
Ah, that spine-tingling, Champions League anthem. It’s not really an anthem, its more of a call to prayer for Liverpool fans, and Anfield is our church.
The song stirs up many a glorious memory of yesteryear; Olympiakos, Manchester City, Juventus and Chelsea have all provided the Reds home with some fantastic nights in Europe, and the anthem serves as an omen for more to come.
The song is a premonition, a foreshadowing of something special to happen under the glorious Anfield lights, and it didn’t fail to deliver this night.
As the game started, for the first 20 minutes or so Liverpool felt like their recent sluggish selves. Passes astray, tackles missed and Red Star seeing a lot of the ball.
But then something clicked, the relentlessness of last season came sauntering back as Roberto Firmino lashed home the first goal of the evening in front of the Anfield Road end, setting off the obligatory “BOBBY FIRMINO” chant.
From this point on, the Reds were firmly in control of the tie. Despite the 1-0 lead, there was a sense of calmness that is a new phenomenon to this side, born out of a water-tight defence that has very rarely shipped any chances let alone goals this season.
Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk were imperious throughout and there was there was absolutely no way that they would be breached this night. That solidity paved the way for Jurgen Klopp’s men to go and get their second of the night, scored by none other than Mohamed Salah.
Half time. Two nil. Job done with a half to spare.
Boom. Three nil and as simple as you like it. Mohamed Salah returned to form at Anfield by bagging a brace from the penalty spot after Sadio Mane was dubiously fouled in the box, slotting straight down the middle of the goal.
This will, fingers crossed, be the watershed moment the Egyptian needs to scale the heights he hit last season once more, and to see the front three shine again.
Ah, Sadio Mané. Ever the enigma in this game. With every bursting run down the byline to break the Belgrade barricade, the Senegalese would follow it up with a misplaced or underhit pass.
This was none more evident than the penalty miss, which give credit to the goalkeeper was a decent save, followed up by a slick goal where he found himself well positioned to notch Liverpool’s fourth and make it a resounding victory on the night. Followed by some deserved “Oh Mané Mané!”
Well, what another fantastic Champions League night in the Kop. Is there really any better place to be when the Reds are in a free-scoring mood?
With Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané all notching in the same game, its a huge return to form for Liverpool’s front three who have been rather maligned of late.
With the monkey thrown firmly off the back of the trio, and with a very beatable Cardiff on the horizon at Anfield, the Reds will again be smelling blood as they look to continue this winning form.