WE must leave all assessments of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s World Cup credentials until a night when he actually has a serious amount of defending to do.
Trent Alexander-Arnold got Liverpool off to a flyer against RangersCredit: Reuters
He got over his England snub with a stunning free-kick to break the deadlockCredit: AFP
Mo Salah then doubled the advantage after the breakCredit: EPA
The Egyptian kept his cool from the penalty spot in front of the KopCredit: EPA
This was billed as the ‘Battle of Britain’ but that tagline would only really work if RAF gunners had been sent out in 1940 to shoot fish in a barrel.
Only a staggering display by Rangers’ 40-year-old keeper Allan McGregor prevented a rout after Alexander-Arnold’s early free-kick had calmed any Liverpool nerves.
There were suggestions that the right-back had ‘answered his critics’ by curling home an excellent effort – but there had never been criticisms over the Scouser’s dead-ball capabilities.
England boss Gareth Southgate had caused apoplexy on Merseyside by claiming Kieran Trippier’s all-round game was better than the Liverpool man’s.
But Trippier also scores free-kicks – indeed he has done so in a World Cup semi-final – and is a better defender too.
Still, this certainly wasn’t a night for anyone in a red shirt to worry too much about defending as Klopp’s side overwhelmed their Scottish visitors.
In the first competitive meeting between two giants of British football, the word ‘competitive’ needed inverted commas.
Liverpool may not find it quite as easy in the return match at Ibrox next Wednesday but it is difficult to imagine them failing to chalk up a third straight Champions League win in Glasgow which would put them in a very strong position to advance from this group.
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The only concern for Klopp was the failure of Darwin Nunez to score.
The Uruguayan target man was the chief victim of McGregor’s heroics but he really ought to have bagged himself two or three goals to kick-start his Anfield career.
While the idea of an all-British fixture in European competition always sounds spicy, the financial disparities between the English and Scottish leagues mean the reality is very different.
Liverpool have struggled against a series of lesser Premier League clubs this season but they absolutely battered Rangers.
Despite last season’s charge to the Europa League Final, Rangers had been gubbed by both Ajax and Napoli in this group and now look set for the wooden spoon and a pre-Christmas European exit.
After the shambles at last season’s final in Paris, the Liverpool fans booed the Champions League anthem every bit as heartily as Manchester City’s followers normally do.
But Klopp was all positivity.
Having seen his side concede nine goals in their previous three matches, the German had opted for a more attacking line-up, a 4-2-3-1 formation which saw Nunez and Luis Diaz added to the side which struggled to a home draw with Brighton on Saturday.
And within two minutes, Nunez drilled a shot which forced McGregor to push away.
But the veteran goalie had no chance soon after when former Liverpool man Ben Davies fouled Nunez 25 yards out and Alexander-Arnold curled home the free-kick in vintage style.
Trent Alexander-Arnold received a standing ovation when he was subbed late onCredit: Reuters
Darwin Nunez was fouled by Ben Davies which led to the defender’s goalscoring free-kickCredit: Reuters
Rangers were struggling to make any impression as an attacking force and McGrgeor was soon busy again, tipping wide from Salah after the Egyptian had cut in from the right.
John Lundstram – a former Everton kid, who had an all-round shocker – was lucky to escape with a yellow card for a cynical foul on Diogo Jota.
Then we were back to the repetitive script of ‘Nunez shoots, McGregor saves’.
First there was a strong-armed stop to thwart the Uruguayan’s angled drive, then another fine effort from the Rangers keeper’s feet and, after that, another diving block from a powerful shot.
Liverpool were too strong, too quick, too sharp all across the pitch and it only seemed like a matter of time before the Scottish team subsided, yet they managed to scramble into the break only one goal adrift.
McGregor was applauded by The Kop as he came out for the second half – like a cheerleading troupe for a man on his way to face a firing squad.
But within eight minutes of the restart his one-man blockade was ended from the penalty spot.
Jordan Henderson pinged a glorious crossfield pass to Diaz on the left, and the Colombian darted between Lundstram and Leon King, who brought him down.
Ref Clement Turpin – who’d controversially disallowed a Real Madrid goal against Liverpool in Paris in May – didn’t have to be too kind to award it and Salah rammed it down the middle.
McGregor was at it again soon after, though, brilliantly tipping over a Jota long-ranger.
Joel Matip headed wide from a corner but then, on 85 minutes, a gobsmacking moment when Rangers almost scored.
Rabbi Matondo slipped past Alexander-Arnold and Matip but saw his shot cleared off the line by an acrobatic Kostas Tsimikas.