Liverpool break down stubborn Maribor and edge closer to Champions League knock-out stages

It was not exactly the beating that some expected, but Liverpool made sure to take another three points from Maribor, the weakest link in their group, and strengthen their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League this season.

Anfield had to wait, with Mohamed Salah, Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge finally breaking the visitors' determination in the second half, while James Milner missed a penalty. However, even after scoring seven against this opposition a fortnight ago, the margin of victory here mattered little. Winning is much more important.

Liverpool will travel to Seville at the end of this month at the top of Group E and one point ahead of the Andalusians, knowing that a triumph will take them to the last 16 for the first time in nine long years.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action for Liverpool (Getty)

It took Klopp only four minutes to break the deadlock in Slovenia, but Darko Milanic, who spent 32 days in Massimo Cellino's Leeds United, established his team more conservatively for this trip to Merseyside. From the first whistle, it became clear that Liverpool and the Anfield crowd would need to be patient this time and wait for the moment to attack.

James Milner found a rare route behind the low Maribor block in the early stages, slipping across the line in the right inner channel, but instead of shooting at the goal he selflessly chose Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose path to the finish line It was well blocked.

The 24-year-old handed just his second start since he arrived from Arsenal in the summer, he did not have to wait long to have another chance to fall when, shortly after, he found Roberto Firmino's cross from the right but under pressure , he lofted a scraped effort on the crossbar.

Salah broke the deadlock minutes after the restart (Getty)

Firmino himself approached with Liverpool's best chance for the first half, with a header that received a detour from Jean-Claude Billong of Maribor. His goalkeeper, Jasmin Handanovic, cousin of Samir de Internazionale, riddled the ball on his own crossbar.

The first signs of discontent and calls for urgency from the crowd of Anfield began to lean out, but still Liverpool could not find a way to slide red shirts behind the deep defense of Milanic. On the other hand, another opportunity came from the right wing and again, a header was off target, this time from Emre Can.

Liverpool had a clear & # 39; Plan B & # 39 ;, they only needed him to leave and minutes before the second half, he did. Another cross of Trent Alexander-Arnold's boot swung and this time, Salah stole a meter in front of Aleksander Rajcevic to deflect the ball with his left leg extended.

Anfield celebrated both in relief and in the hope that the contest would open now. The hosts resumed where they had left him and when Firmino was knocked down awkwardly in the penalty area, Milner had the opportunity to extend his lead from the point. For the third time this season, a Liverpool player could not convert, as Handanovic pressed the midfielder's effort against right.

More opportunities were rejected still. Firmino had a short distance attempt rejected by the keeper's heel and, after being chosen by an excellent cross by Alberto Moreno, Salah should have done something better than shooting a header at point-blank range.

James Milner failed to convert from the point in the second half (Getty)

The waste of Liverpool frustrated his fans, but it never seemed to be fatal due to Maribor's lack of intention. Eventually, the second came and Milner expired his penalty foul by giving Can a delicious double, allowing his midfield partner to cut a goal for the first time at the corner of the visitors' net.

The contest was almost over, except for a few raids by Maribor and a powerful blow from Martin Milec that Loris Karius hit comfortably to the ground. Liverpool casually looked for a third to crown the night off and found it by substitute Daniel Sturridge, who hit home the cross from Moreno from inside the six-yard area after finding space at the far post.

Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Moreno, Can, Milner, Wijnaldum (Henderson 17), Salah (Sturridge 74), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino (Grujic 85).

Unused substitutes: Mignolet, Gomez, Robertson, Solanke.

NK Maribor (3-4-3): Handanovic; Billong, Rajcevic, Suler; Milec, Pihler, Kabha, Viler; Hotic (Ahmedi 81), Mesanhovic (Tavares 58), Bohar (Bajde 69).

Substitutes not used: Obradovic, Vrhovec, Vrsic, Palcic.

Referee: Ivan Kruzliak (Slovakia)

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Liverpool break down stubborn Maribor and edge closer to Champions League knock-out stages

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