Liverpool moved two points clear at the top of Group D with victory over Champions League rookies FC Midtjylland on a night their defensive problems mounted with the loss of Fabinho to injury.
The Brazilian, who has slotted in alongside Joe Gomez in the centre of defence since the loss of Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury on 17 October, had to be replaced after suffering a suspected hamstring injury.
Starting without influential forwards Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, Liverpool failed to register an attempt on target in the first half.
They broke the deadlock after Trent Alexander-Arnold played a neat one-two with Xherdan Shaqiri, the former teeing-up Diogo Jota to tap home in front of an empty Kop.
Midtjylland went close to equalising after a clever shot on-the-turn by Brazilian substitute Evander.
In the end, Liverpool finished with Salah, Mane and Firmino on the pitch, Salah doubling the lead with a stoppage-time penalty after the Egypt forward was brought down by Paulinho.
With group rivals Atalanta and Ajax drawing 2-2 in Italy, Liverpool have six points from two games, two more than second-placed Atalanta, who they visit next Tuesday.
Liverpool labour to three points
This was Liverpool’s first game since August 2015 that none of their famed front three started, yet the Reds failed to manage a single first-half shot on target for the first time in 51 home games.
Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri all struggled to make an impact during a flat home performance as Jurgen Klopp looked to rest Mane, Salah and Firmino during a hectic run of fixtures.
Instead, the Liverpool boss was forced to send all three on to ensure Liverpool sealed the points.
The loss of Fabinho is a big worry with the Brazilian having performed well in Van Dijk’s absence.
Liverpool’s number three pulled up off the ball and slumped to the ground before being replaced by 19-year-old Rhys Williams, who came on as an 89th-minute substitute in the 1-0 win away to Ajax last week.
With Van Dijk set to miss the majority of the season and games coming thick and fast, Klopp will be hoping Fabinho’s injury is not serious particularly as Joel Matip is also out injured.
Rookies give Reds a scare
Danish champions Midtjylland were only formed in 1999 and are playing in their first Champions League group campaign.
Having been beaten 4-0 at home to Atalanta last week, they put up a much better fight against the six-time champions of Europe.
One of European football’s feel-good stories, Midtjylland almost took a shock early lead only for Alisson to save Liverpool’s blushes to keep out former Brighton player Anders Dreyer following a ball over the top.
Moments before Salah doubled the lead in stoppage time Dreyer went close to equalising, going past Gomez but dinking over Alisson and into the side-netting.
Assist king – the best of the stats
- Since his Liverpool debut in October 2016, Trent Alexander-Arnold has registered 35 assists in all competitions, with no Premier League defender managing more in that time.
- Midtjylland became the 17th team to play their first ever Champions League away game against an English side – with all 17 failing to win and 15 losing.
- Courtesy of his first Champions League goal since December 2016 (for Porto v Leicester), Diogo Jota has now scored in three of his four appearances for Liverpool at Anfield in all competitions.
- Excluding qualifiers, Midtjylland have lost eight of their 10 away games in European competition (W1 D1).
- Mohamed Salah has been involved in 10 goals in 10 Champions League group stage games at Anfield (9 goals, 1 assist).
Liverpool are back in action at Anfield on Saturday when West Ham are the visitors (17:30 GMT).
- 3FabinhoSubstituted forR Williamsat 30′minutes
- 14HendersonSubstituted forWijnaldumat 45′minutes
- 7MilnerBooked at 41mins
- 20JotaSubstituted forFirminoat 81′minutes
- 18MinaminoSubstituted forSalahat 60′minutes
- 27OrigiSubstituted forManéat 60′minutes
- 46R Williams
- 76N Williams
- 14ScholzBooked at 19mins
- 29da SilvaBooked at 90mins
- 40CajusteBooked at 32minsSubstituted forKraevat 81′minutes
- 38Ogochukwu OnyekaBooked at 25mins
- 7SistoSubstituted forda Silva Ferreiraat 72′minutes
- 11MabilSubstituted forAndersonat 66′minutes
- 9KabaSubstituted forPfeifferat 81′minutes
- 10da Silva Ferreira
Match ends, Liverpool 2, FC Midtjylland 0.
Second Half ends, Liverpool 2, FC Midtjylland 0.
Goal! Liverpool 2, FC Midtjylland 0. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Paulinho (FC Midtjylland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Penalty Liverpool. Mohamed Salah draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Paulinho (FC Midtjylland) after a foul in the penalty area.
Attempt missed. Anders Dreyer (FC Midtjylland) left footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Mikael Anderson.
Attempt missed. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Foul by Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool).
Frank Ogochukwu Onyeka (FC Midtjylland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Luca Pfeiffer (FC Midtjylland) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Joel Andersson with a cross.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mikael Anderson (FC Midtjylland).
Substitution, FC Midtjylland. Luca Pfeiffer replaces Sory Kaba.
Substitution, FC Midtjylland. Bozhidar Kraev replaces Jens Cajuste.
Substitution, Liverpool. Roberto Firmino replaces Diogo Jota.
Attempt missed. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Attempt missed. Evander (FC Midtjylland) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Frank Ogochukwu Onyeka with a cross.
Attempt missed. Evander (FC Midtjylland) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.
Foul by Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool).