Complete victory over Maribor could serve as springboard for Liverpool
Assuming that Maribor had been paying attention to Liverpool's performances this season -- particularly in Europe -- they will have known just how difficult a game they were in for on Tuesday night, but they wouldn't have been expecting to be humiliated in the manner they were.
The 7-0 scoreline did not flatter Liverpool. Indeed, had the margin of victory been even greater Maribor could have had few complaints as this was as one-sided a game of football as you'll see in the Champions League this season
It had been coming too, as for weeks Liverpool had been threatening to do this -- only for poor finishing allow the opposition to escape relatively unscathed. On Tuesday night it all clicked, and when Liverpool click they are irresistible.
Saying "it was only Maribor" misses the point entirely. They might not be Real Madrid or Juventus but they're no mugs either. The Slovenian champions are seasoned European campaigners who are rarely swatted aside in the manner they were by the Merseysiders, certainly on home soil anyway.
No English club -- not even Liverpool in their 1970s and '80s heyday -- had ever recorded such a big win away from home in Europe's premier competition and Jurgen Klopp was understandably delighted at what he saw from his side, who had won just one of their previous eight games despite performing well in most of them.
For supporters, the key takeaway from the win was that the floodgates finally opened as Liverpool's attackers rediscovered their clinical edge in front of goal. For Klopp, however, it was as much about the play without the ball that led to so many opportunities being created.
"The counter-pressing. I loved this," he told the club's official website. "From the first second it was exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to show the best counter-pressing of the last few weeks because I really thought that protecting our offensive movements, patterns and all that stuff were already really good against United but we could have done even better in counter-pressing.
"Tonight we did much better and against a football-playing side like Maribor, it made a lot of sense. We scored the first goal from a pressing situation and a few other goals were after a counter-pressing situation, so it helped a lot."
Counter-pressing is of course a key to what Liverpool do, but it's not always easy for them to do it when the opposition counters it by playing long balls to bypass the press. This happens far more in the Premier League than it does in Europe and is one reason why Liverpool under Klopp have more chance of claiming a sixth European crown than they do of recording a 19th domestic title.
Another reason Europe suits them is that draws don't tend to hurt you in the Champions League, but they are fatal in the Premier League, particularly this year with the blistering pace being set by leaders Manchester City. Liverpool have lost just once in the Premier League this season but find themselves nine points behind City after only eight games. In contrast, they've drawn two of their three European games but still top the group.
This was the complete performance by Klopp's team. They barely allowed Maribor out of their own half and, one fairly routine first half save aside, goalkeeper Loris Karius had nothing to do all night.
Spartak Moscow should be feeling relieved they weren't on the receiving end of a similar score three weeks ago when they too were dominated but somehow escaped with a 1-1 draw. Their joyous celebrations at full-time that night suggest they were well aware of their good fortune.
Surprisingly, while Liverpool were having their way with Maribor, the Russians were hammering Sevilla 5-1 in a shock result that has blown the group wide open. Most viewed the Spanish side as the biggest danger to Liverpool, but Spartak have now emerged as legitimate challengers. The result also suggests that Sevilla are not the side they once were, or perhaps they're just not as effective outside of their Europa League comfort zone.
Liverpool desperately needed this result and it could be a turning point for a couple of individuals as well as the team as a whole. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bagged his first goal since his deadline day move from Arsenal and that should help him settle down and relax a little following a difficult start to life at Anfield.
Roberto Firmino has been struggling for goals of late but should now be feeling like a weight has been removed from his shoulders after scoring twice. He had a legitimate claim on a hat-trick, as both he and Mohamed Salah appeared to strike the ball at the same for Liverpool's fourth of the night. The goal is being credited to Salah (presumably as his celebration seemed to have the most conviction), putting the Egyptian on an impressive eight for the season. It should be more than that of course, but it's difficult to be too critical of a player who has been a revelation so far this season.
Liverpool won't score seven every week but if they continue to create chances as they have been, don't bet against them doing it again at some point between now and May.
At the end of the season Liverpool's goal tally will be right up there, but its the streaky nature of it that is undermining them so far. If they ever learn to spread the goals around fairly evenly instead of scoring them in bunches, they'll take some stopping.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN's Liverpool bloggers and the founder of LFC fanzine and website The Liverpool Way. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.