Opinion: Maribor 0-7 Liverpool - Reds back to their best to slaughter second-rate Slovenians

There's nothing quite like a 7-0 away win to restore some calm and confidence at a time of growing concern.

On a record-breaking night on the banks of the Drava River, Liverpool ignited their Champions League campaign and - thanks to Sevilla's 5-1 thrashing at Spartak Moscow - moved to the top of Group E, and in some style.

Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino both netted braces while Philippe Coutinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all on the scoresheet to give the Reds their first European victory of the season.

Not just that, but the seven-goal thrashing was Liverpool's best ever win away from home in European competition - some feat for a team that have won the Champions League five times and UEFA Cup three times.

Liverpool's European pedigree has seen them sweep aside numerous opponents home and away, but away from Anfield - no victory has ever been as convincing as this one.

Some might have worried that Maribor might do as other sides have against Liverpool last season by staying resilient and organised in defence to deny them clear opportunities. Such fears were never realised beyond kick-off.

Reds put Slovenian minnows to the sword

It was 1-0 after four minutes and 3-0 before the 20th as Liverpool raced into the most of comprehensive of early leads. Firmino turned in Salah's low cross for the opener after the Egyptian's pressing won possession on the right-hand side.

Liverpool's clever combination play - once again after winning the ball - allowed Coutinho to excellently volley from a James Milner's clipped delivery into the bottom corner to double their lead.

Salah's double - finishing well from Firmino's through ball and then meeting a Alberto Moreno square cross - had Liverpool completely in control at half-time.

Goalkeeper Loris Karius required to make just one save from Mitja Viler at his near post, while Suler headed wide a half-decent opportunity from a free-kick, and they were the only instances of threat throughout the 90 minutes.

The second-half was much the same, albeit with Liverpool less adventurous going forward as their tempo cooled. Firmino flicked in a deft header from Coutinho's near-sided free-kick to make it 5-0 on 54 minutes but the last two goals came in the final five minutes.

Having completely controlled the game, Liverpool added two late goals to really embarrass the woefully poor hosts.

Substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain virtually passed a shot into the bottom corner after Daniel Sturridge's set-up before Alexander-Arnold's 25-yard drive deflected beyond the Maribor goalkeeper for the seventh in stoppage-time.

It could have been 10, with a handful of chances - in the first-half and the second - going untapped.

The bitter truth was that rarely will Liverpool play a team as bad as Maribor - particularly at this level. Manager Darko Milanič's post-match admission that his side were "quite bad" for the entire game was kind.

The Slovenians were far too slow in almost every situation and for all of the visitors' quality, Maribor's mediocrity - if it can even be called that - was painful to watch and made a one-sided affair an inevitability.

Klopp's side take forward steps in hopes of wrestling Group E control

Steven Gerrard's Liverpool Under-19s, who beat Maribor U19s 4-1 earlier in the day, would even have rattled a few past a team who have still never won a Champions League home game despite this being their third time in the group stages and their eighth attempt.

The last time they took on an English team saw them draw 1-1 at home to Chelsea in November 2014, the same year the Blues won the title, but there was never any hope or danger of them claiming anything against a Liverpool team whose display belied their recent struggles.

Yet Klopp's side still had to produce the calibre of performance that they did, having too regularly failed to overwhelm inferior teams this season. They did just that here.

It was a result Liverpool needed both for their Champions League campaign and their season as a whole. They had won just one of their previous eight and concerns about their finishing, and defending, were rife.

Worries will still remain over the Reds' unreliable back-line - despite recording a second straight shut-out after a goalless draw against Manchester United - but here they were untroubled and they regained some long-desired ruthlessness.

The score-line might even have been harsher had Liverpool taken more of their opportunities and pressed for more goals in the second-half. Instead they were somewhat guilty of relenting between the hour mark and the last 5-10 minutes.

But that can be forgiven in the circumstances. Liverpool still scored seven, kept a clean sheet, and injected life into their hopes of Champions League progression and a tussle with the elite.

Liverpool have not reached the knockout stage of this competition since 2008-09 but now they are now on course and should achieve another comfortable win over Maribor in a fortnight's time to help them move another step closer.

Then, if they earn a positive result away at La Liga side Sevilla and overcome Spartak at home - having been by far the better team against the Russians in Moscow - first-place in the group is assured.

Doing so will be far easier if they can produce the potency and fluidity of their performance at Maribor on a more consistent basis.

This showing was the kind of class Liverpool have regularly threatened to offer all term and now they have given another glimpse of what can happen when things click - they must work on doing so on a weekly basis. That is unquestionably Klopp's main aim.

Even with their inconsistent, and often substandard, defence, an attack of this quality will lay waste to the vast majority of opponents until proper improvement at the back - likely in the form of new signings - is made.

Questions can be, and have been, asked of whether substantial progression has been made at Liverpool under Klopp but performances like this are evidence enough.

Against also-rans the result might have been, Maribor's draws with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the last five years and Liverpool's form coming into this encounter show that a result this emphatic was far from a given.

There is the nucleus here for a very good football team on Merseyside right now. Perhaps not yet a title-winning one, their defence below-par and their attack still capable of rueful wastefulness, but one that can make real noise in the Premier League and abroad. One whose recent results does not paint a true picture of its potential.

Sensational Salah one of the stand-outs yet again

There were several stars on the night in the region of Lower Styria but Salah's display was arguably the most eye-catching, taking the kind of chance for his first goal that he has consistently wasted this term.

The winger - three months into his Liverpool career - has eight goals in all competitions and has been a huge success story already on Merseyside. Yet he could have hit double figures far earlier.

Perhaps that is the most impressive marker of Salah's start at Liverpool. He has been excellent, but yet can he still markedly improve, particularly with his finishing.

But his pace, movement and effervescence bring so much to the side and his display at the Stadion Ljudski vrt was another reminder of that if one was even needed.

It is a wonder his energy levels have yet to drop given only Joël Matip (1,170 minutes), Jordan Henderson (1,053) and Georginio Wijnaldum (1,015) have managed more than his 1,009 minutes across all competitions.

Yet he was not the only impressive performer. Elsewhere, James Milner - whose addition to the starting line-up might have caused some frustrated sighs - proved a reminder of his experience and esteem as an on-running midfielder.

Likewise Emre Can was imperious from a deeper-lying defensive midfield role, many a Maribor player unable to match his sheer strength in possession.

Coutinho - having now supplied four goals and three assists in his last five games - was a class above with his mesmerising footwork seeing him weave himself into dangerous positions.

The front three of Salah, Firmino and Coutinho was dazzling and should they rekindle such form in the club's next three Champions League games, progression to the knockouts will be a formality.

The entire eleven were far closer to their peak performance and so it showed. This was the Liverpool that Klopp envisions, minus the frustration of failing to convert their dominance into goals and coughing up preventable opportunities to the opposition.

The challenge now is to ensure the momentum and morale gained from such an emphatic win is not lost, starting with a testing trip to Wembley Stadium to face Tottenham - the only title challenger even close to the two Manchester clubs - on Sunday.

Liverpool's season so far has stuttered since a 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal at Anfield at the end of August, but their return to form can be confirmed with another vibrant display - and even better a win - against one of the Premier League's best defences, and best teams, in the shape of the Gunners' North London rivals.

Liverpool supporters came to call the old Wembley 'Anfield South' in the 1980s and another masterful display in the national stadium, against Mauricio Pochettino's excellent side, would do wonders for their domestic campaign. The challenge is set.

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