Diogo Jota continued his red-hot form with a hat-trick as Liverpool won their opening three games of a Champions League Group stage for the first time ever courtesy of an emphatic 5-0 success at Atalanta.
The Portuguese forward was given an opportunity to stake a claim for a more regular spot ahead of Roberto Firmino and duly produced a display to suggest the Brazilian’s place in the famed front three could be under real threat.
Jota opened the scoring with a sublime dinked finish before a wonderful first touch set up the chance for him to drill home his second just past the half hour.
Liverpool then ran riot at the start of the second period as the Italians fell apart. Mo Salah became the club’s joint-second highest scorer in Europe alongside Michael Owen (22) when he ran clear to curve home before Sadio Mane got in on the act with a fine clipped finish from the Egyptian’s pass.
Mane then turned provider to send Jota clear. The former Wolves man showed great pace to charge in-behind, round the keeper and slot in his first hat-trick for the Reds on 54 minutes.
Ahead of the contest, Atalanta’s adventurous style was highlighted as a serious threat to the Merseysiders’ injury-hit central defence, but it never really materialised as 19-year-old Rhys Williams shone alongside Joe Gomez on his first Champions League start.
The result sees Liverpool move well clear at the top of the pool on nine points. Ajax are five points further back on four points alongside Atalanta. FC Midtjylland remain pointless.
Liverpool will now turn their attention to the small matter of Sunday’s Premier League showdown at Manchester City, but in terms of Group D, they will hope to clinch qualification to the knockout stage at home to Atalanta on November 25, while Ajax host FC Midtjylland.
Atalanta-Liverpool, Champions League, Getty Images
Image credit: Getty Images
Jota hits new heights on a five-star night for Klopp. Jota will grab all the headlines - and he thoroughly deserves them – but there were so many positives for Klopp. The forward wouldn’t have been on many Kopites’ wish-list in terms of top striker targets this summer, but he’s already establishing himself as a fans' favourite. He’s not only staking a claim to be a regular in the starting XI, but on this form he’s in the running for signing of the season.
This was supposed to be Liverpool’s biggest test in Europe so far, but they produced one of their best performances of the season to win at a canter. It was a third clean sheet on the bounce in Group D and it was achieved with a 19-year-old rookie at the heart of the defence. Salah maintained his own magnificent form with his ninth of the campaign while Mane netted his fifth as the Merseysiders continued their impressive run since the news of Virgil van Dijk's shocking injury lay-off.
The only thing missing was a goal from Roberto Firmino when he came off the bench, but overall Klopp will be delighted with the manner of the win ahead of a crunch game at Man City on Sunday.
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MAN OF THE MATCH
Diogo Jota (Liverpool). What a signing the former Wolves man is proving to be. He took his tally to seven goals in 10 appearances since joining Liverpool and now has six in his last four outings. His direct running caused problems all night as he linked up brilliantly with Mane and Salah. He's already showing he's on the same wave-length as all of his new teammates. That's great news for Liverpool, but bad news for everyone else.
ATALANTA: Sportiello 6, Toloi 5, Palomino 5, Djimsiti 5, Hateboer 5, Freuler 6, Palasic 5, Mojica 6, Gomez 6, Muriel 6, Zapata 6. Subs: Pessina 6, Malinovskyi 6, Lammers n/a, Depaoli n/a, Ruggeri n/a.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson 7, Alexander-Arnold 8, Gomez 8, R. Williams 8, Robertson 8, Henderson 8, Wijnaldum 7, Jones 8, Salah 8, Jota 9, Mane 8. Subs: Milner 6, Keita 6, Firmino 6, Tsimikas n/a, N. Williams n/a.
16’ – GOAL! Atalanta 0-1 Liverpool. Jota races on to Alexander Arnold's lovely pass, holds off his man and dinks it past the keeper. A sublime finish to open the scoring.
33’ – GOAL! Atalanta 0-2 Liverpool. It's that man again. Jota takes down a high ball to the left of the area with a sensational first touch past his marker and duly rifles a low shot in at the near post with his next.
47’ – GOAL! Atalanta 0-3 Liverpool. Salah leads a solo charge on the break from a poor Atalanta corner. He cuts inside his man and curves a left-foot shot into the far corner.
49’ – GOAL! Atalanta 0-4 Liverpool. Mane gets in on the act as he lifts a delightful shot over the keeper from Salah’s delicious pass.
54’ – GOAL! Atalanta 0-5 Liverpool. Jota has a hat-trick! The forward surges in-behind to collect Mane's pass, charge beyond the keeper and tuck the ball into an empty net.
Liverpool's Portuguese striker Diogo Jota (L) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions league football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Liverpool, on November 3, 2020 at the Atalanta stadium in Bergamo
Image credit: Getty Images
Salah has now scored 21 goals for Liverpool in the Champions League, drawing level with Steven Gerrard as the club's highest goalscorer in European Cup/Champions League history.
Liverpool’s 5-0 win was the biggest ever by an English club away to Italian opposition in European competition.
Since the start of last season, Diogo Jota has scored three hat-tricks in the Champions League and Europa League combined - the only player to have done so more than once.
Jota is only the second player to score on his first two starts in the Champions League for Liverpool, following Robbie Keane back in 2008.
Jota scored Liverpool's 10th hat-trick in the European Cup/Champions League, the ninth different player to do so for the club, with only Graeme Souness doing so on more than one occasion.