October 23, 2019

Champions League: Ox Chamberlain’s brace help Liverpool ease past Genk

Chamberlain, Liverpool, Genk, Champions League

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s double, one at each half, helped Liverpool clinch a vital away win win against Genk in the Match Day 3 of the Champions League.

There was a moment at Old Trafford on Sunday when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took possession 25 yards from goal, dropped the shoulder and played a timid sideways pass to a teammate.

Chamberlain, Liverpool, Genk

On the touchline, Jurgen Klopp was enraged, the cameras picking up his screams urging his midfielder to drive forward and use the shooting power which prompted Liverpool to sign him.

With such instructions still giving him tinnitus, three days later Oxlade-Chamberlain took the direct route in the Genk Arena as Liverpool gave an attacking exhibition with a 4-1  victory.

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The midfielder gave Liverpool the lead after 151 seconds in and doubled it in more spectacular style shortly after the interval.

With these two sublime goals against the Belgian champions, the 26-year-old may finally consider his Liverpool rehabilitation complete. He last scored twice in the same game against Reading in October 2016, still in Arsenal colours.

These were not the thunderbolts from the edge of the penalty area that typified his first strikes for the club prior to a serious knee injury.

Indeed, there was some surprise as goalkeeper Gaetan Coucke chose to watch the opener pass by without offering an intervention. Call it well-placed.

The keeper could not be blamed for the second, struck with the outside of the right boot on 57 minutes and bouncing over the line from the underside of the crossbar. Such efforts are always more pleasing on the eye.

Given Oxlade’s last goal was in the same competition when Liverpool played against Manchester City in the 2018 quarter-final, these strikes surely carried more meaning than any in his career.

He was replaced on 74 minutes so denied the chance to complete a hat-trick, – he might have got it but for a wayward Mo Salah pass seconds earlier – yet he can consider this more of a leap than step on the path to re-establishing himself at Anfield.

Klopp and Liverpool want to see more of this, demonstrating even the European champions can benefit from another dimension.

The suspicion – perhaps even expectation – is Klopp signposted the next phase of Liverpool’s evolution in Genk.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Fabinho formed a midfield trio for the first time. It is the one area of the pitch where, if everyone is fit and on form, there will soon be a weekly guessing game about starters.

That sounds disrespectful to Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum, but it remains the case that the one area of improvement for this Liverpool team – as demonstrated against Manchester United last weekend – is midfield creativity.

Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain were signed to provide that but have been denied the opportunity due to the period in rehabilitation. It would be a stretch to describe this as an audition, but an impressive showing would certainly have given Klopp much to ponder before Spurs visit this weekend.

What the Liverpool coach witnessed was the thrilling merits and lingering flaws of introducing midfielders with more attacking intent, Telegraph reported