Genk 1-4 Liverpool: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scores twice on Champions League return
Liverpool end run of four successive away losses in the Champions League group stages
Last Updated: 24/10/19 9:20am
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored two wonderful goals on his first return to Champions League action in 18 months as Liverpool beat Genk 4-1 on Wednesday.
The last time the midfielder stepped onto a Champions League field, he suffered a serious knee injury against Roma in April 2018, but it took him less than two minutes to find the back of the net with a lovely long-range finish.
There was another sensational effort from Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 57th minute, which was followed up by more delightful goals from Sadio Mane (77) and Mohamed Salah (87). Stephen Odey (88) replied for Genk, who deserved a goal for their performance, but Liverpool were just too strong.
It brings an end to a bizarre four-game losing run in away Champions League group stage games for Liverpool, who remain second in Group E after Napoli beat Red Bull Salzburg 3-2 in the other fixture. Genk stay bottom with one point.
How Liverpool ended their away hoodoo
It took less than two minutes for Oxlade-Chamberlain to rediscover his Champions League feet. Fabinho picked him out in a pocket of space at the top of the area and he took a touch before sweeping home into the bottom corner.
But Genk could twice have equalised quickly after with two balls over the top catching Liverpool out. The first effort was sent wide by Mbwana Samatta after a wonderful forward run before Alisson saved a shot from Paul Onuachu at point-blank range.
Genk: Coucke (6), Maehle (7), Cuesta (6), Lucumi (6), Uronen (6), Bongonda (7), Heynen (6), Berge (7), Ito (7), Samatta (7), Onuachu (7).
Subs used: Ndongala (6), Odey (6), Hagi (n/a).
Liverpool: Alisson (6), Milner (7), Lovren (6), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (6), Fabinho (7), Keita (7), Oxlade-Chamberlain (8), Mane (7), Salah (7), Firmino (7).
Subs used: Gomez (6), Wijnaldum (6), Origi (5).
Man of the match: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Liverpool tested Genk goalkeeper Gaetan Coucke a few times as the half went on, but it was the hosts who thought they had equalised in the 26th minute. Junya Ito flashed a cross into the area, which Samatta powerfully headed home, but as he wheeled off to celebrate, the goal was ruled out by the referee. It went to a VAR review and after around 90 seconds, the decision was corroborated and the goal remained disallowed with Ito just offside in the build-up - his head just in front of Andy Robertson in the tightest of calls.
Twelve minutes after the restart, Oxlade-Chamberlain once again found the net with the pick of the evening's goals. Roberto Firmino slipped the ball his team-mate at the top of the area, with Oxlade-Chamblerain pinging the ball goalwards with his first touch, using the outside of his foot. It looped onto the underside of the crossbar before nestling in the back of the net in a jaw-dropping show of skill.
- Genk made two changes - Carlos Cuesta and Paul Onuachu replacing Sebastian Dewaest and Ianis Hagi.
- Mohamed Salah returned for Liverpool in one of five changes. Trent Alexander-Arnold (illness), Joel Matip (knee) Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Divok Origi (all benched) dropped out with Salah, James Milner, Dejan Lovren, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in.
Twenty minutes later, as Genk began to run out of steam, Liverpool struck again with another delightful goal. The front three linked up in typical fashion, with Firmino finding Salah, before the latter clipped the ball into Mane's path. The Senegal international got between the two centre-backs before lifting the ball over the onrushing Coucke.
Salah then got in on the scoring act himself in the 87th minute. The Egypt forward did superbly well to get away from the marking of John Lucumi and Cuesta before coolly slotting home towards the back post, scoring his first goal away from Anfield since the Champions League final in May.
Genk nabbed their consolation a minute later, ruining Liverpool's chance of a first Champions League clean sheet this season. Dieumerci Ndongala showed off some wonderful trickery to get past three Liverpool players before picking out Odey in the middle. He hit home on the swivel, sending the ball past Alisson.
Man of the match - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
There is no doubting it was Oxlade-Chamberlain's night in Belgium. He scored two absolutely sensational goals and had a real air of confidence about him as he looked to be back to his pre-injury self.
The way his team-mates surrounded him and celebrated too shows just how loved he is in the Liverpool dressing room and it is a real joy to see the midfielder back to his best. Hopefully he can continue to show this for the foreseeable future.
After the game, Jurgen Klopp said: "It's an absolutely great moment for him but Ox's performance was I would say exactly like the performance of the team: the goals were great but all the rest could have been better! That's how it is, it's no problem.
"The goals were sensational and very important for us. Obviously it was wonderful last Sunday that Adam scored the goal and now Ox has scored two goals which is really nice. It's absolutely great, a great story."
What the manager said
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: ""We had good moments, a lot of good moments and made a very good start, then had another 10 or 15 minutes absolutely okay, exactly as we had to do it.
"The plan worked okay then not any more because we lost completely unexpected balls we were not ready for, which in the formation was not possible. Sometimes we took in the wrong moments a risk, passing a one-two in a very tight situation makes not too much sense.
"We had to defend their balls with legs and had to run for it. They got a bit of momentum which after our start was completely unnecessary but that's what happened.
"It was a pretty stiff first half. Then we scored the second goal, by the way the first goal was very brilliant and the second goal even nicer, and all our goals were unbelievably beautiful. After the second it was a proper knock for Genk it looked like and we scored the third and fourth.
"We conceded one which wasn't cool but it's not the biggest problem in the world. We won the game, job done. That's it."
In pictures: Oxlade-Chamberlain's cool first-time finish
Analysis: Oxlade-Chamberlain's stunning CL return a reminder of his talent
Sky Sports' Peter Smith…
Eighteen months separated Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's last two Champions League appearances. And after his long, long battle back from the bad knee injury he suffered in the semi-finals of the competition in April 2018, his splendid double in Liverpool's win at Genk on Wednesday night were sweet moments.
All of those hours in the treatment room and the endless gym sessions he had to endure - while his team-mates were lighting up the Premier League and on their way to lifting the Champions League - they all led up to these match-winning moments, which Oxlade-Chamberlain will no doubt cherish for a long time to come.
But this is not the end of the journey. Oxlade-Chamberlain is now in contention to become a key part of Liverpool's midfield as they push for a first Premier League title and mount a Champions League defence.
Oxlade-Chamberlain vs Genk
Boss Jurgen Klopp clearly admires his attributes - the fact Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed a new long-term contract in August underlined Liverpool's faith in the midfielder. And his performance in Belgium demonstrated the pressing, the passing and the panache Oxlade-Chamberlain can bring to this Liverpool side.
There's hot competition in the middle of the park - Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner, Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri will all be competing for similar roles to Oxlade-Chamberlain. But the Ox is back and has made a memorable statement of why he deserves to be a central figure this season.
- Genk have now played more matches than any other team in the history of the European Cup/Champions League without winning a game (15 - W0 D8 L7).
- This was the second consecutive Champions League match in which a Liverpool player assisted a goal on his birthday - Roberto Firmino did so against FC Red Bull Salzburg and Fabinho tonight against Genk.
- Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Liverpool's Roberto Firmino has more assists in the Champions League than any other player (11).
Liverpool are back in Premier League action on Renault Super Sunday as they host Tottenham (kick-off 4.30pm). Genk will play Cercle Bruges on Sunday evening in the Belgian Pro League.
Both teams will next be in Champions League action for the reverse of this fixture as Liverpool welcome Genk to Anfield on Tuesday, November 5.