Forwards find their scoring touch as Liverpool hit seven past Maribor
MARIBOR, Slovenia -- Three thoughts on Liverpool's 7-0 win vs. Maribor in the Champions League.
1. Goals flow for Liverpool
A result like this has been coming for a long time and Liverpool's run of just one win in their last eight games was emphatically ended with the club's best-ever away win in Europe. For the first time in a while, Liverpool's shots total - 26 -- produced a respectful number of goals.
September and the start to October was blighted by wastefulness, costing valuable points in the Premier League. And while the frontline of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho should have added further to their scoring tally at the Stadion Ljudski vrt, Jurgen Klopp's side displayed a ruthless streak in a must-win match.
It was the Reds' first Champions League away win in seven years and 10 months and they have given themselves an excellent chance of progressing to the knockout rounds after frustrating draws with Sevilla and Spartak in their first two Group E ties.
Maribor manager Darko Milanic had looked to frustrate Liverpool with a well-organised unit, but those plans went out of the window inside 20 minutes. Mohamed Salah pounced on a loose ball before squaring to Firmino for the easiest of finishes and Coutinho netted a well-taken volley from James Milner's cross, before Firmino played an exquisite through ball for Salah to finish.
The best way to counter a low-block is to score early and those three goals in the first 19 minutes ensured the remainder of the match took the form of an exhibition match. There was confusion as to who scored Liverpool's fourth before half-time, with Salah appearing to pip Firmino for the credit.
Normal service resumed after the break when Firmino managed to get his second of the night, glancing a header past Jasmin Handanovic in the aftermath of Coutinho's saved free kick.
With result beyond doubt and Sunday's trip to Tottenham in mind, Salah and Firmino's work for the night ended early, replaced in the 57th and 68th minutes respectively. There was also still time for substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Trent Alexander-Arnold to add to the scoreline.
For all the talk of crisis at Anfield in the past few weeks, this result is a timely reminder that Liverpool are heading in the right direction under Klopp. The manner of victory and performance will not come as a surprise to approximately 800 supporters who made the trip to Slovenia. But they now need to transfer this performance domestically.
2. Firmino finally finds the net
Firmino certainly brings a lot to this Liverpool side, but the Brazilian forward's month-long wait for a goal had some wondering whether Klopp needed an out-and-out striker to convert the team's dominance into goals.
However, those barren spells are probably less noticeable because of Liverpool's tendency to spread the goals out, as was the case with his two fellow forwards getting on the scoresheet in Slovenia.
After an imperious start to the campaign, Firmino's form was beginning to tail off in recent matches. But a game like this was the perfect opportunity for him to kick-start his campaign, while his performance also allowed for Coutinho and Salah to flourish,
That front three is probably Klopp's best option while Sadio Mane nurses a length hamstring injury and that means Oxlade-Chamberlain may not get the chance he wanted after being touted as a potential replacement for Mane on the right wing.
Not even a promising 12-minute cameo against Manchester United -- easily his best outing in a Liverpool shirt following his arrival from Arsenal -- could hand Oxlade-Chamberlain just his second start for the Anfield club in Slovenia.
The former Arsenal man did net his first goal for the club and that will certainly be a confidence-booster to stave off reservations about his move. But it's becoming clear that Klopp doesn't view him as a must-start; he will have a role to play this season, though probably just not the one he wants.
3. Milner still offers plenty in midfield
The days of Milner as Liverpool's dependable option at left-back seem long ago, with the 31-year-old veteran training in his preferred central-midfield position these days. Tuesday night, though, was just his third start of the season.
His desire to play in a more accustomed role is undoubtedly limiting his game time and there were question marks as to whether the club vice-captain could still cut it in the middle of the park. His showing against Maribor put some of those doubts to bed.
As a consummate professional, Milner still has the fitness levels to play in the engine room which, in Klopp's system, demands lung-busting runs into the penalty area. Milner's accurate assist for Coutinho's goal was just one of many occasions when he was one of Liverpool's furthest players forward.
With the resurgence of Alberto Moreno making the Spaniard first choice at left-back, along with the competence of summer signing Andrew Robertson as backup, Klopp appears to have made the right call in moving Milner's nous and experience further forward.
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.