Three points, no injuries. Those will have been the watchwords at the start of the night for Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool players delivered on both counts, even if they did not have things all their own way against Genk.
Goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, either side of a shock equaliser by Ally Mbwana Samatta, saw the Champions League holders pick up a third successive win in this competition and move top of Group E.
Napoli were held to a draw at home by Red Bull Salzburg, meaning that victory over the Serie A side at Anfield in a fortnight’s time will be enough for Liverpool to progress to the knockout stages, though they will need to improve on this performance.
Perhaps the slightly subdued atmosphere and below-par display can be explained by what is on the horizon. Klopp’s selection was greatly influenced by the visit of Manchester City on Sunday and without the likes of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Andy Robertson starting, Liverpool lost some of their usual verve.
Anfield bedded in for a low-key affair when Wijnaldum opened the scoring after less than a quarter-of-an-hour. James Milner was released down the left-hand side by Divock Origi’s through pass and when his cross bounced off Genk captain Sebastien Dewaest, Wijnaldum hooked into the roof of the net.
Genk may be Belgium’s defending champions but they currently sit in eight-place domestically. It was easy, therefore, for the European champions to feel complacent. Mohamed Salah proved particularly wasteful with the number of opportunities which fell his way and this wastefulness was punished emphatically not long before half time.
When Trent Alexander-Arnold was forced to clear a dangerous cross away from Samatta for a corner, the Genk forward made sure he would connect next time around. Samatta lost Fabinho, beat Milner to the ball at the near post and powered a header out of Alisson’s reach. Anfield was stunned.
Having seemed on the way to a routine victory, Liverpool suddenly had work to do. They did not have to wait too long to restore the lead, however, with Oxlade-Chamberlain asserting his side’s dominance at the start of the second half.
In fairness to the wasteful Salah, it was his square pass that Oxlade-Chamberlain collected on the edge of the penalty area, before spinning and firing low into the far corner. The midfielder had started the night in an unfamiliar centre-forward position and this clinical finshing showed why.
Klopp would reverse the more conservative selections he made in his starting line-up, introducing Robertson, Mané and Firmino in the hope of adding more spark to Liverpool’s play. Instead, they ended up defending the slender lead from mounting Genk pressure. The visitors’ best chance fell to Bryan Heynen, with Alisson tipping wide.
But apart from Samatta’s header, Genk never truly tested Liverpool’s shaky defence, which has still only kept three clean sheets in all competitions this season. Klopp will not care too much about that, however. The holders escape unscathed, happily collect all three points and turn their attentions to Sunday.