Scott Arfield gave Rangers hope of a famous victory at Ibrox, but Liverpool roared back in sensational style at Ibrox.
Liverpool had to come from behind to beat Rangers on Wednesday night, with Roberto Firmino continuing his resurgent season to drag the Reds to victory and Mohamed Salah scoring the fastest ever Champions League hat-trick in six second half minutes.
Scott Arfield put Rangers ahead in the opening 20 minutes of the game in Glasgow before Firmino leveled Liverpool’s sleepy level not long after and later added another. There was also a much-needed one for Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott’s first European goal.
An injury-depleted Liverpool side, already reeling from yet another home Premier League setback at the weekend, slowly got out of the blocks at the weekend, with Rangers taking an early lead and creating more chances than their famous rivals.
Their breakthrough was well deserved when it came, though Liverpool didn’t help themselves. Fabio Carvalho was caught and Ryan Jack played at Arfield as the Red Sea seemed to part in front of him, followed by a pinpoint finish that sent the home fans into a frenzy and celebrated their club’s first Champions League goal (other than qualification) in 12 long years. .
If anything, his departure sparked Liverpool into life as Rangers only led for the final seven minutes before Firmino scored his seventh goal of the renewed season. The Brazilian was simply stronger than James Tavernier at the near post as he powered over from a corner.
Even so, Ibrahima Konate’s point-blank block to deny Arfield a second ensured Rangers would not go back in front in the closing minutes before half-time.
Liverpool’s class showed 10 minutes into the second when they went ahead. Joe Gomez did his best impression of Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right wing as he bent a low cross into the box for an ice-cold Firmino to score between the legs of Allan McGregor.
In the end, Jurgen Klopp’s side were better in the second half. Firmino was involved again when Nunez curled an effort out of McGregor’s reach and latched on to the Brazilian’s improvised move.
Then came the Salah show. The Egyptian was rested from the start but was clearly desperate to get into the act with three excellent finishes in quick succession. His first came from his colleague Diogo Jota who fired in from a tight angle, the second and third he tried to turn from very similar positions on the edge of the box but found opposite corners.
Elliott’s late seventh was initially ruled out by an offside flag when he turned on the rebound, but VAR intervened and the original decision was overturned.
Rangers ended the night knocked out of the Champions League after four consecutive defeats, while Liverpool will book their place in the knockout stages if they avoid defeat on Matchday 5.
Rangers vs Liverpool: Player ratings – Champions League
1. Rangers (4-2-3-1)
GK: Allan McGregor – 3/10 – Beaten seven times.
RB: James Tavernier (c) – 4/10 – Helped create the early breakthrough but was not strong enough to stop Firmino’s equaliser.
CB: Connor Goldson – 6/10 – Had a decent first half but sadly limped off injured right before half-time.
CB: Ben Davies – 3/10 – Not the night he would have wanted against his former side.
LB: Borna Barisic – 4/10 – Played Nunez onside for the third goal that effectively killed Rangers off.
CM: Ryan Jack – 5/10 – Strong start but faded. Didn’t see enough of the ball to impact the game after the opening half an hour.
CM: John Lundstram – 4/10 – No match for Fabinho in the end.
RM: Fashion Sakala – 5/10 – Looked a threat in the first half but faded.
AM: Scott Arfield – 5/10 – Took his opportunity really well, surging through the middle of the pitch. Couldn’t compete in the second half.
LM: Ryan Kent – 4/10 – Disappointing against a potential weak link.
ST: Antonio Colak – 4/10 – Didn’t get the service he needed.
SUB: Leon King (45′ for Goldson) – 4/10
SUB: Steven Davis (60′ for Jack) – 4/10
SUB: Rabbi Matondo (76′ for Sakala) – N/A
SUB: Alfredo Morelos (76′ for Colak) – N/A
SUB: Scott Wright (76′ for Kent) – N/A
Manager: Giovanni van Bronckhorst – 5/10 – Things started superbly but his team ran out of steam and he didn’t have the answers.
2. Liverpool (4-3-3)
GK: Alisson – 5/10 – Aside from being beaten early, didn’t have a great deal to do for most of the match.
RB: Joe Gomez – 6/10 – Couldn’t get round on the cover quickly enough to stop Arfield giving Rangers the lead. But he made the go-ahead goal.
CB: Ibrahima Konate – 7/10 – Got sucked out of position for the early opener. Made a great block just before half-time. Good in the second half.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 6/10 – Shut Rangers down in the second half.
LB: Kostas Tsimikas – 6/10 – Put in another decent shift but will now be fighting for his place with Robertson back.
CM: Jordan Henderson (c) – 5/10 – Liverpool were at their free flowing best after he went off as Rangers tired.
CM: Fabinho – 7/10 – Controlled the game after half-time.
CM: Harvey Elliott – 8/10 – Showed great energy for 90 minutes and got his reward with a late goal.
RF: Roberto Firmino – 9/10 – Continued his great form with two very different but well-taken goals. Assisted Nunez’s goal as well.
ST: Darwin Nunez – 7/10 – Hadn’t done a great deal before showing great composure for a confidence boosting goal.
LF: Fabio Carvalho – 6/10 – Struggled a little at times, but was still involved.
SUB: Thiago Alcantara (67′ for Henderson) – 6/10
SUB: Andrew Robertson (68′ for Tsimikas) – 6/10
SUB: Mohamed Salah (68′ for Nunez) – 9/10 – Got an a very high quality six-minute hat-trick off the bench, a Champions League record.
SUB: Diogo Jota (73′ for Firmino) – 7/10
SUB: James Milner (79′ for Konate) – 6/10
Manager: Jurgen Klopp – 7/10 – Resisted making changes until after Liverpool were 3-1 up. Arguably worked in his favour because Salah looked hungry at the thought of missing out.