Liverpool beats Maribor 3-0, tops Champions League group
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool overcame its latest penalty failure at Anfield to wear down Maribor in a 3-0 win that moved the English team within sight of the Champions League knockout stage on Wednesday.
All three of Liverpool’s goals — from Mohamed Salah, Emre Can and substitute Daniel Sturridge — came in the second half, as did the missed penalty by James Milner that may lead coach Juergen Klopp to look for a fourth different penalty-taker this season.
Liverpool has failed to convert its last four penalties taken at Anfield stretching back to the end of last season, with Milner, Roberto Firmino, Salah and Milner again the culprits.
“We will find a player, for sure,” Klopp said laughing.
Liverpool moved a point clear in Group E, and can secure a top-two finish and a place in the knockout stage by beating Sevilla on Nov. 21 in the fifth round of games. Sevilla, which beat Spartak Moscow 2-1 on Wednesday, is second.
Thrashed 7-0 at home by Liverpool two weeks ago, Maribor learnt its lesson and set up more defensively at Anfield, restricting the hosts to little more than crosses from the right wing in the first half.
Halftime frustration turned to elation in the 49th minute when Salah raced into the area to meet Trent Alexander-Arnold’s right-wing cross with a flicked volley into the net in the 49th minute. It was the 10th goal of the Egypt winger’s first season at Liverpool.
It was a matter, then, of how many goals Liverpool would rack up. Milner missed the next chance, when his penalty was tipped onto the post by Jasmin Handanovic in the 54th, after Firmino was tripped by Aleksander Rajcevic following a brilliant piece of skill along the byline but he helped set up Can’s goal in the 64th.
Milner executed the perfect lay-off from Can’s forward pass and the Germany midfielder surged through to sidefoot powerfully into the corner from the edge of the area.
Sturridge came on as a 74th-minute substitute for Firmino and scored from close range in the 90th to wrap up a win that mirrored Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Huddersfield in the Premier League on Saturday.
On that occasion, Liverpool also scored three second-half goals and missed a penalty. Patience is proving a virtue at Anfield these days.
″(I’m) pleased with the result and the reaction (in the second half),” Klopp said, “even though the game was not the best we have ever played.”
Klopp laughed off the successive penalty misses but it is becoming a problem for Liverpool, which earns plenty of spot kicks each season through their slew of tricky attacking players. Klopp has taken Milner, Firmino and Salah off penalties each time they have missed one.
Another issue for Klopp is injuries in midfield, with Georginio Wijnaldum limping off with a swollen ankle in the first half. Fellow midfielders Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane are already out injured.
Maribor is on one point from four games, four points behind third-place Spartak Moscow.
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80