Diogo Jota hit a hat-trick as a ruthless Liverpool made light work of what was supposed to be a tough Champions League clash at Atalanta.
The Portuguese summer signing from Wolves kept up his remarkable recent form with two clinical finishes in the first half to put the Reds in control against last season’s quarter-finalists, before a 10-minute burst of goals in the second period overwhelmed their opponents.
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane added their names to the scoresheet, before Jota – in for Roberto Firmino – finished on the break to make it 5-0.
Here are the game’s talking points.
1. The Diogo Jota show continues
Maybe it won’t be as bad as when Robbie left Take That. Or Geri walked out on The Spice Girls.
‘Liverpool’s Front Three’ has only been Liverpool’s front three for just over three years, but the union of Firmino, Salah and Mane feels as though it has been a fixture for a lot longer than that, and a staple in modern football.
Jurgen Klopp knew that he couldn’t rely on the tried and tested in this most unusual of seasons though, and so the move for Jota was sanctioned as an addition, or a supplement to the men who are always there.
And now? Well it is still the case.
It would be a brave man to bet against Firmino not starting at Manchester City on Sunday, but for the first time there is a genuine contender to fill in and replace one of the forwards across the campaign.
Will Jota’s incredible form continue? No, that is almost impossible given how well he’s doing.
But the performances he’s putting in and numbers he’s putting up are marking him out as perhaps the most important signing of the second phase of Klopp’s tenure.
He’s been nothing short of a revelation.
2. Don’t forget Salah and Mane though
Maybe it is because of Jota’s form, or perhaps for one or two other reasons, but the outstanding performances from Salah and Mane this season don’t seem to have quite registered on the collective consciousness as they could have done.
The old hands have still got it though, and the way they took the game away from their opponents at the start of the second half was nothing short of ruthless.
There’s been a couple of hints of late that the Reds could return to their more attacking outlook of 2017/18 – Salah and Mane’s first season together – and this very much resembled that type of performance.
Give the pair space to run into and they will punish you.
3. The kids are alright
Ask Klopp to make a list of the of the most pleasing things about this victory and the displays of Rhys Williams and Curtis Jones are sure to be up there near the top.
Centre-back Williams was called back into the team because Nat Phillips is ineligible for the Champions League, and he had the type of night that must make him think that this senior football lark really isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
Jones, meanwhile, was busy expressing himself in a way that he hasn’t been able to do too much when he’s started in the rough and tumble of Premier League matches.
This was his third start in Liverpool’s last five matches, and he turned in a display that showed he is at home in this company.
4. Cruise control for Klopp
Given that this was already Liverpool’s best start to a Champions League season under Klopp after they’d won two from two, the fact that they have now, to all intents and purposes, pretty much secured qualification to the knockout stages must be an incredible feeling for the German.
In this of all seasons, and with options around him dwindling, the Reds have been able to serenely navigate their way through a group which wasn’t without its difficulties on paper.
If the Reds can beat Atalanta again at Anfield when the Champions League resumes, then you can expect to see even more rotation in the latter games of this group.
5. Atalanta’s awkward awakening
One of the incredible, yet still sad stories of last season’s Champions League, Atalanta just found themselves overwhelmed here, turning in the type of display that showed none of the spirit they displayed in drawing with Manchester City last season.
Did the lack of a crowd play a part? You’d have to say so, even though that can be no excuse for the home side’s performance.
Last season’s hipster’s favourites were hammered here, and will need to change for the return clash in three weeks.
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