Liverpool kept their UEFA Champions League campaign on track with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Rangers on Tuesday.
After another home disappointment at the weekend in the form of a 3-3 draw with Brighton, Jurgen Klopp switched things up and went with a 4-2-3-1 formation. This improvement paid off almost immediately as Liverpool deservedly took the lead after just seven minutes.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side looked out of their depth all night at Anfield and would have been several goals down at half-time if not for Allan McGregor. The veteran goalkeeper continued his heroics in the second half to make sure only a penalty went through despite his side’s clear struggles.
Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara dominated from the first whistle in a two-pivot midfield behind a fluid front four that clearly caused Rangers problems early on.
Ben Davies’ rash challenge after six minutes resulted in his side going 1-0 down. Trent Alexander-Arnold punished the former Liverpool man with a superb free-kick into the top corner, leaving McGregor helpless despite his efforts.
The 40-year-old player was called into action again after 16 minutes, when Mohamed Salah slalomed into the penalty area with virtually no problems and brilliantly denied his twisted effort with a fingertip save.
Rangers struggled to settle into the game and were massively outplayed in midfield. Darwin Nunez rotated well with his colleagues and Klopp’s team regained possession exceptionally quickly whenever they were caught. A rare chance for Rangers from set-piece James Tavernier sent a free-kick straight into the Liverpool wall in the 18th minute; summing up their slow start.
Liverpool continued to knock the ball around with ease and almost doubled their lead after half an hour when Virgil van Dijk headed wide. McGregor crucially kept the deficit to just one goal at half-time, denying Nunez on several occasions in a fine individual display.
Steven Davis won a second ball high up the field early in the second half, allowing Ryan Kent to attack Alexander-Arnold, but his low cross was wrong. The general disbelief of Kent and Rangers was highlighted minutes later when Luis Diaz went down at the other end to earn a penalty after being hacked down by Leon King after a sharp dart into the box.
Salah made it 2-0 to the Reds after 53 minutes, with Rangers now looking completely out of ideas.
Despite substitute Rabbi Matondo forcing a brilliant block from Kostas Tsimikas’ line late on, Liverpool saw the game out comfortably in what was a poor night for Rangers, who need to be bolder going forward.
Liverpool vs Rangers player ratings – Champions League
1. Liverpool (4-2-3-1)
GK: Alisson – 6/10 – Twiddled his thumbs for most of the evening, but came up with a big save at the end.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7/10 – Absolutely inch-perfect free-kick. Mr. Whippy.
CB: Joel Matip – 6/10 – Easy night at the office. Spurned a golden opportunity to score late on by heading wide.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 6/10 – Completely dominated Morelos alongside Matip. Should’ve scored in the first half, also putting a free header wide.
LB: Kostas Tsimikas – 7/10 – A confident game from the Greek international who displayed his ability with a number of neat touches in high areas. Brilliant clearance late on.
DM: Jordan Henderson – 7/10 – Swept up well on the rare occasions Rangers broke forward and did a good job of keeping tempo.
DM: Thiago Alcantara – 8/10 – You cannot give this man the space to stroll around picking passes like he did. Played with slippers on. Immense.
RW: Mohamed Salah – 8/10 – Given far too much time and space to run at defenders, which meant he thrived. Deserved his goal.
AM: Diogo Jota – 6/10 – Picked up a few nice positions, but looked like a player that had been out of the team for some time. Untidy.
LW: Luis Diaz – 7/10 – Barely involved in the first half; gets the ball in the second half and immediately wins his side a penalty. So dangerous when given space.
ST: Darwin Nunez – 7/10 – Lacked awareness in possession when trying to pick out the right pass or firing beyond McGregor, but occupied defenders very well and was a nightmare to keep quiet. Learn to pick a corner, Darwin.
SUB: Roberto Firmino – (70′ for Jota) – 6/10
SUB: Fabinho – (70′ for Henderson) – 6/10
SUB: Harvey Elliott (80′ for Nunez) – N/A
SUB: James Milner (80′ for Thiago) – N/A
SUB: Joe Gomez (90′ for Alexander-Arnold) – N/A
Manager – Jurgen Klopp – 9/10 – Credit to the German for trying something different with his team’s shape. His side looked much more balanced and – crucially – refreshed. Attacked with more purpose and fluidity.
2. Rangers (5-4-1)
GK: Allan McGregor – 8/10 – Had absolutely no chance of getting to Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick, but still single-handedly kept Rangers in the game throughout the night. And ruined Diaz’s evening.
RWB: James Tavernier – 5/10 – With all the action taking place down the opposite flank, Tavernier had a somewhat more straightforward evening.
CB: Leon King – 4/10 – The teenager wasn’t helped out enough by his colleagues in dealing with Liverpool’s relentless attacks. Showed his inexperience.
CB: Connor Goldson – 5/10 – Organised his defence well considering the midfield was outnumbered and King was thrust in despite his inexperience.
CB: Ben Davies – 3/10 – An unsavoury return to Anfield – dragged around the place by Nunez and bailed out by McGregor.
LWB: Borna Barisic – 4/10 – Constantly caught in no man’s land thanks to Salah and Nunez. Will need a good lie down after that .
RM: Malik Tillman – 4/10 – Completely out of the game with Rangers constantly chasing. A shame they couldn’t try and play towards him more.
CM: John Lundstram – 3/10 – Didn’t know whether he was coming or going when Liverpool attacked. Looked very lost.
CM: Steven Davis – 4/10 – A similar story for Davis. Too much ground to cover and couldn’t keep track of runs in behind. Rangers could’ve done with another midfielder.
LM: Ryan Kent – 5/10 – Looked the most lively for Rangers when they did have possession, which isn’t saying much.
ST: Alfredo Morelos – 3/10 – Struggled immensely to hold up the ball, which made life difficult for his teammates. Barely in the game at all.
SUB: Ryan Jack – (66′ for Davis) – N/A
SUB: Fashion Sakala – (66′ for Tillman) – N/A
SUB: Antonio Colak – (73′ for Morelos) – N/A
SUB: Rabbi Matondo (81′ for Kent) – 6/10 – So close to scoring at the end.
SUB: Glen Kamara (81′ for Davies) – N/A
Manager – Giovanni van Bronckhorst – 3/10 – Of course you have to be wary when heading to Anfield, but Rangers were set up far too conservatively. They were overrun in midfield and lacked an outlet.