“When it comes to the cold facts, Liverpool may well be the best team in the world. 25 out of 27 points in the Premier League, that’s quite impressive,” Coach Mazzu said before the match. “But Napoli is also a formidable opponent, and we held them to a draw. We must believe that we can get something against Liverpool again.”
Mazzu didn’t have any selection issues, as nearly everyone was fit. Somewhat surprisingly, the Genk coach deployed two men up front. Onuachu paired up with his teammate Samatta. Bongonda, Heynen, Berge, and Ito formed the midfield.
Liverpool coach Klopp showered them with praise: “I don’t want to make Genk bigger than they are, but you don’t become champions in Belgium by chance. They are well-organized and always try to play with wingers who cut inside, creating space for advancing full-backs. They can be a troublesome opponent for us in their own house.”
Liverpool faced setbacks with Trent Alexander-Arnold (viral infection) and Joel Matip (knee injury) being ruled out. Egyptian Mo Salah responded well after his first training session on Tuesday and started in the lineup. Milner played as the right full-back.
Oxlade-Chamberlain with the early goal.
The match started with an early blow. Just two minutes into the game, Oxlade-Chamberlain took a shot from distance, perfectly placing the ball beyond Coucke’s reach and next to the far post. Genk immediately responded with a counter-attack from Samatta, but the Tanzanian striker missed the target with only Alisson to beat.
Almost an identical situation four minutes later, but this time it was Onuachu who had a one-on-one opportunity with the Liverpool goal. However, the Brazilian goalkeeper made an excellent save to prevent the equalizer. Twenty minutes into the game, Ito went on a run, but he stumbled just as he was about to make his final dribble.
On the other side, Firmino cleverly set up Mané for a chance, but our goalkeeper Coucke was up to the task. Then, Samatta seemingly scored the equalizer, but the assistant referee spotted an offside by Ito when he started his run for the cross. The VAR confirmed the decision, though it was a close call. Mané had another good chance from a deep pass by Robertson, but his shot only found the goalkeeper’s chest. The first half ended with our boys trailing 0-1.
Liverpool pushes on, Odey scores one back.
Genk came out of the locker room with enthusiasm, and Liverpool allowed them to play. However, just before the hour mark, the 0-2 goal came down from the heavens. Oxlade-Chamberlain struck a beautiful shot from just outside the box with his right foot, and it went in off the crossbar. Samatta then headed a corner just wide.
With Ndongala replacing Bongonda, Coach Mazzu tried to provide more attacking impetus. But it was the visitors who scored again. Salah played a deep pass to Mané, who cleverly chipped the ball over Coucke into the net. With three minutes of regular play left, Salah scored himself. He spun away from his defender and slotted in the 0-4 goal.
A minute later, Genk finally found the net. Ndongala passed the ball wide, and substitute Odey scored a beautiful goal with a turn, marking his first Champions League goal. In the absolute final moments, Odey had another attempt. Alisson struggled to handle the shot and needed two attempts to stop the ball. Uronen was just a moment too late to tap it in. And that was it. Genk fought bravely, had chances, especially in the first half, but the reigning European champions proved to be a class above. The final score: 1-4.
KRC Genk lineup: Coucke, Mæhle, Cuesta, Lucumí, Uronen, Ito (87′ Hagi), Berge, Heynen, Bongonda (67’ Ndongala), Samatta, and Onuachu (81’ Odey).
Liverpool FC lineup: Alisson, Fabinho, van Dijk, Lovren, Milner, Keïta, Firmino (80’ Origi), Mané, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain (74’ Wijnaldum), and Robertson (64’ Gomez).
02’ : 0 – 1 : Oxlade-Chamberlain
57’ : 0 – 2 : Oxlade-Chamberlain
78’ : 0 – 3 : Mané
87’ : 0 – 4 : Salah
88’ : 1 – 4 : Odey