Liverpool moved a step closer towards a place in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in almost ten years with a 3-0 win at home to Maribor, where German international Emre Can was instrumental in the centre of the field. In a comfortable victory for the home side, midfielder Can produced a Man of the Match display with four tackles, one goal and 87 passes in an all-action performance.
Both the Liverpool defence and forward line have come under criticism in recent matches, while even the midfield have come under pressure for failing to prevent such easy passages through to the defence. The Reds back four answered those critics with their fourth clean sheets in their past five games in all competitions, after managing none in the seven games before that, while the front line were as potent as ever with Mohamed Salah and Daniel Sturridge amongst the goals.
Can slotted back into the midfield and also answered his critics with a solid performance both defensively and offensively, providing a sturdy barrier in front of the defence while linking up with the attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on numerous occasions.
The German was impressive all evening, and certainly deserved his goal as it arrived on the 64th minute. He could have found the net even earlier in the game, yet his moment of brilliance arrived in the second half after a fine one-two with fellow midfielder James Milner, who cushioned the ball for the onrushing Can. The powerful German made no mistake from just outside the box as he controlled his strike to sail into the back of the net, making it 2-0 to the home side and ending any hopes of a possible comeback from Maribor.
It was an important moment of composure from Can, who has all-too-often produced one too many rash decisions in a Liverpool shirt, but this was certainly not the case as he netted his first Champions League goal in his 13th appearance in the competition. With some important tackles and the constant driving runs from midfield, Can impressed on a night where a decent team performance was enough to see past minnows Maribor.
Whether he remains in the starting line-up for the trip to West Ham this Saturday evening is unknown, but injury to Gini Wijnaldum perhaps suggests that he will retain his place, with the Reds next in action in the Champions League with a crucial away match at Sevilla on 21st November.