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Liverpool 2-1 Genk: European champions edge closer to Champions League knockout stages

The good news for Liverpool and England is that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain thinks he will continue to get better. He will hope that he is given the opportunity to take another step forwards against Manchester City in the Premier League this Sunday.

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Jurgen Klopp selected a team here with Sunday’s game in mind. Five or six sat this out and in their stead appeared some of the supporting cast. Simply because he is still returning after a serious injury, Oxlade-Chamberlain currently belongs in the latter category.

But he is slowly beginning to straddle the line and here was a performance of such conviction and purpose that it will be soon be very difficult indeed to leave him out. Sunday may come too soon for him. He even appeared to suggest as much. 

Liverpool edged closer to the Champions League knockout stages as they edged Belgian side Genk 2-1 on Tuesday night

Georginio Wijnaldum got the European champions up and running with a clever flick from inside the six-yard box

The ball popped up in the area and the Dutch midfielder (right) quickly reacted to steer the ball in at the near post
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The ball popped up in the area and the Dutch midfielder (right) quickly reacted to steer the ball in at the near post

The ball popped up in the area and the Dutch midfielder (right) quickly reacted to steer the ball in at the near post

Anfield was stunned into silence when the Belgian side equalised thanks to a towering header from Mbwana Aly Samatta

Anfield was stunned into silence when the Belgian side equalised thanks to a towering header from Mbwana Aly Samatta

Anfield was stunned into silence when the Belgian side equalised thanks to a towering header from Mbwana Aly Samatta

Samatta wheels away in front of the Kop after giving the visitors a shock leveller despite spending most of the half defending

Samatta wheels away in front of the Kop after giving the visitors a shock leveller despite spending most of the half defending

Samatta wheels away in front of the Kop after giving the visitors a shock leveller despite spending most of the half defending

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Liverpool needed just eight minutes after half time to regain the lead after a sublime turn and shot from Oxlade-Chamberlain

The England midfielder jumps and punches the air in delight after scoring another goal against Genk in this campaign

The England midfielder jumps and punches the air in delight after scoring another goal against Genk in this campaign

The England midfielder jumps and punches the air in delight after scoring another goal against Genk in this campaign

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates James Milner at the full-time whistle after his side won at home once again

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates James Milner at the full-time whistle after his side won at home once again

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates James Milner at the full-time whistle after his side won at home once again

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS

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Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson 6, Alexander-Arnold 6, Gomez 6.5, van Dijk 6, Milner 7, Wijnaldum 7.5, Fabinho 7, Keita 6.5 (Robertson 73, 6), Oxlade-Chamberlain 8 (Mane 74, 6), Salah 7.5, Origi 7 (Firmino 88, 6).

Subs not used: Lovren, Adrian, Lallana, Jones.

Goals: Wijnaldum 14, Oxlade-Chamberlain 53

Bookings: None

Manager: Jurgen Klopp 6.5 

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Genk (4-4-2): Coucke 7, Cuesta 6, Dewaest 7.5, Lucumi 7.5, Maehle 6, Heynen 6, Berge 6.5, Hrosovsky 6 (Bongonda 84, 6), De Norre 6 (Onuachu 84, 6), Ito 6.5 (Ndongala 68, 6), Samatta 7.

Subs not used: Wouters, Piotrowski, Hagi, Vandevoordt.

Goals: Samatta 41

Bookings: Lucumi, De Norre

Manager: Felice Mazzu 6.5 

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Referee: Ivan Kruzliak (Slovakia)

Man of the Match: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 

‘I am still feeling my way,’ he said on Tuesday night.

‘I am not quite there yet.’

But City manager Pep Guardiola will watch this performance and know that there is another buccaneering attacker in red out there capable of hurting his team.

This was a strange game at times and a night when Liverpool were not at their best. For the eighth game running in all competitions, they failed to keep a clean sheet.

But the two great positives were leadership of their Champions League group on the back of Napoli’s draw with Red Bull Salzburg and a display from Oxlade-Chamberlain that was impressive in all the right ways.

Liverpool are always at their best when moving forwards at pace with the ball and here Oxlade-Chamberlain was the embodiment of that philosophy.

The 26-year-old played with the confidence and conviction of someone who trusts his body again and after a big injury that is at least half the battle.

The winning goal summed up his night. Lurking a couple of yards outside the penalty area in the 53rd minute, he received a sideways pass from Mo Salah that he may not actually have expected.

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But after cushioning the ball adroitly, he turned swiftly and screwed a low shot across the goalkeeper and in to the bottom corner with his left foot.

It was a miserable evening on Merseyside and conditions were particularly bleak as the game got underway at Anfield

It was a miserable evening on Merseyside and conditions were particularly bleak as the game got underway at Anfield

It was a miserable evening on Merseyside and conditions were particularly bleak as the game got underway at Anfield

Liverpool manager Klopp was all smiles before kick-off as he looked to continue his impressive record at Anfield

Liverpool manager Klopp was all smiles before kick-off as he looked to continue his impressive record at Anfield

Liverpool manager Klopp was all smiles before kick-off as he looked to continue his impressive record at Anfield

Genk very rarely troubled the Reds in the early stages with Junya Ito battling for possession with Liverpool's Naby Keita
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Genk very rarely troubled the Reds in the early stages with Junya Ito battling for possession with Liverpool's Naby Keita

Genk very rarely troubled the Reds in the early stages with Junya Ito battling for possession with Liverpool’s Naby Keita

James Milner's cross bounced off a couple of defenders and sat up nicely for Wijnaldum to hook in a shot at the near post

James Milner's cross bounced off a couple of defenders and sat up nicely for Wijnaldum to hook in a shot at the near post

James Milner’s cross bounced off a couple of defenders and sat up nicely for Wijnaldum to hook in a shot at the near post

Wijnaldum celebrates with his Dutch team-mate Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool thought they were on course for a simple victory

Wijnaldum celebrates with his Dutch team-mate Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool thought they were on course for a simple victory

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Wijnaldum celebrates with his Dutch team-mate Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool thought they were on course for a simple victory

It was a goal that Liverpool needed and it was fitting that Oxlade-Chamberlain scored it. He had been their best player, the one who played with most belief, the one who seemed to possess the greatest energy. There were others, too.

James Milner was aggressive at left back and Salah was probably as unselfish as he has ever been or ever will be. Had Liverpool been a little more accurate in front of goal, more than two of their 26 shots would have found a way in to the goal.

As it was, this was all a bit squeaky. Liverpool are finding a way to win at the moment without being at their best. That is the way it was here. They could and should have won by many more but they didn’t. It is the way it appears to be at the moment. They started brightly enough and scored early.

Milner and Divock Origi combined well down the left and when the former crossed low the ball bounced up off defender and captain Sebastien Dewaest and dropped at Georginio Wijnaldum’s feet. The Dutchman helped the ball over the line on the half turn.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah had a good chance to double his side’s advantage but dragged his shot wide of the far post

Oxlade-Chamberlain looked sharp in central midfield as he continues to work his way back into the first-team picture

Oxlade-Chamberlain looked sharp in central midfield as he continues to work his way back into the first-team picture

Oxlade-Chamberlain looked sharp in central midfield as he continues to work his way back into the first-team picture

Samatta sprinted across the near post, beat Milner to the ball and powered a header past a helpless Alisson into the net

Samatta sprinted across the near post, beat Milner to the ball and powered a header past a helpless Alisson into the net

Samatta sprinted across the near post, beat Milner to the ball and powered a header past a helpless Alisson into the net 

The Tanzanian striker was congratulated by his team-mates in the corner as he gave them hope of a famous result

Klopp speaks to assistants Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijnders as his side tried to find a way through the Belgian team

Klopp speaks to assistants Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijnders as his side tried to find a way through the Belgian team

Klopp speaks to assistants Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijnders as his side tried to find a way through the Belgian team

For a long spell after that, Liverpool were dominant. Milner drove low from distance, Naby Keita had two shots blocked within 15 seconds and then Oxlade-Chamberlain made a fool of a defender on the edge of the area only to see his own strike come back towards him from a defender.

Salah also came close – shooting across goal – as Liverpool threatened to close out the game.

But then, just before half-time, Genk broke to win a corner and when the Tanzanian Mbwana Aly Samatta got ahead of Milner at the near post he powered in a headed equaliser.

On the touchline Klopp smiled in that rather bemused way of his. His team have a habit of letting opponents in to games at the moment. Liverpool did recover swiftly on this occasion and that will have pleased their manager.

Oxlade-Chamberlain received the ball off Salah, produced a delightful turn and then powered an effort back across goal

Oxlade-Chamberlain is congratulated by team-mates as they looked to get closer to the Champions League knockout rounds

Oxlade-Chamberlain is congratulated by team-mates as they looked to get closer to the Champions League knockout rounds

Oxlade-Chamberlain is congratulated by team-mates as they looked to get closer to the Champions League knockout rounds

Divock Origi tried to get on the end of a Liverpool corner but the Belgian forward was just not able to reach the cross

Divock Origi tried to get on the end of a Liverpool corner but the Belgian forward was just not able to reach the cross

Divock Origi tried to get on the end of a Liverpool corner but the Belgian forward was just not able to reach the cross

Salah had another good chance to score his first of the night but failed to connect properly from the edge of the box

Salah had another good chance to score his first of the night but failed to connect properly from the edge of the box

Salah had another good chance to score his first of the night but failed to connect properly from the edge of the box

Origi and Salah could have scored in the immediate moments following the equaliser and Liverpool were endlessly superior once Oxlade-Chamberlain had scored his fourth goal in his last four games.

Klopp will probably not worry too much that Liverpool are not winning by larger scorelines, nor that Genk threatened an equaliser at the end of the game. He knows that improvement at both ends of the field will come later in the season.

Klopp will instead be looking at the incrementals, the small improvements, and nothing will have pleased him more this season than the form of his No 15.

Having moved to Anfield from Arsenal in the August of 2017, Oxlade-Chamberlain headed north looking to restart his career. Currently he is having to do it again. It is an impressive sight.