Liverpool 3-0 NK Maribor: Reds Win After Impressive 2nd Half Display
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool were made to work for their 3-0 victory against NK Maribor this evening, with all the goals coming in the second half.
Despite a penalty miss, Liverpool deserved the victory which now sees the Reds at the summit of Group E outright.
Liverpool dominated the early proceedings in terms of possession without creating any clear-cut chances, as the Slovenian side were content with parking the metaphorical bus, hoping to play on the counter attack.
It was a tactic that frustrated Klopp's side as they struggled to break down a resolute Maribor back-line, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain effort blocked by Jean-Claude Billong, following a low Roberto Firmino cross
The first real chance on the half hour for the Reds, as Jasmin Handanovic did superbly to tip a hugely deflected header from Firmino onto the bar from an Oxlade-Chamberlain cross, as Liverpool began to turn the screw, looking for the crucial opener.
Chances began to come much more frequently as Emre Can and Firmino couldn't direct there headers on target, while Mohamed Salah's control let him down at the vital moment as Maribor stood firm throughout.
Half-time fell at a subdued Anfield, as a frustrated Liverpool had no answer of unlocking a stubborn Maribor defence, who offered very little as an attacking threat.
With Klopp's words ringing in their ears, Liverpool started the second half with much more purpose and found the opener within five minutes of the restart.
Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped in a dangerous cross that Salah managed to apply the crucial touch in front of Aleksander Rajcevic as the ball skidded past Handanovic for the Egyptian's tenth goal of the season.
The goal opened the game up and forced Maribor to come out and show some form of an attacking threat.
Instead, they conceded a penalty as Rajcevic pulled down Firmino in the area. James Milner stepped up hoping to make it two, but saw his penalty saved by Handanovic who brilliantly tipped the ball onto his left hand post, as Liverpool's recent penalty woes continued.
Handanovic was in inspired form in the Maribor goal as he blocked a Firmino effort to keep the score to one, while Salah should've scored his second of the game as he headed over from only six yards out.
Liverpool now had the cushion of a goal and more space to work in as their Slovenian counterparts now had to find an unlikely equaliser after putting all their energy in stopping the Reds from scoring.
Klopp's side made use of the space by scoring an exquisite second, courtesy of Can. The German played a one-two with Milner, before curling a delicious shot past Handanovic's outstretched dive and give Klopp's men breathing space.
Maribor now had nothing to lose and began to foray further forward. Loris Karius had to be alert to palm away a stinging Martin Milec drive for his first involvement of the game for the German goalkeeper, who had largely been a spectator in this and the previous game in Slovenia.
There was time for a third as a short corner found Daniel Sturridge in the area, who rifled a left-foot shot through the legs of Handanovic to give the scoreline its deserved gloss.
With the game now won, Liverpool cruised towards the final whistle as they eventually broke down Maribor's defence to take charge of Group E, with the two seemingly tougher group games still left to play.