Philippe Coutinho bagged a fantastic hat-trick as Liverpool smashed Russian side Spartak Moscow in their final Champions League group game, driving the Reds to the knockout stage for the first time since 2008/09.
The Brazilian was in scintillating form all evening, where Liverpool’s entire attack were simply unstoppable in the 7-0 win, with the back four also putting in a shift to achieve another important clean sheet. Sadio Mane’s double, Roberto Firmino’s fine finish and Mohamed Salah’s superb solo effort were all thoroughly enjoyable goals as the Anfield faithful watched on, but it was Coutinho who stole the show with a sensational display under the lights in Liverpool.
The magician’s first arrived from the spot, and was Liverpool’s fastest goal in a Champions League game at Anfield (three minutes 51 seconds). His composure in front of an excited home crowd was admirable, with not many inside the stadium and indeed out ever doubting the number ten as he placed the ball down and outwitted the Spartak keeper.
Coutinho then added his and Liverpool’s second on the 15-minute mark, finishing confidently from inside the box from Firmino’s cut-back after a fantastic team move. Philippe then completed his first hat-trick for the club five minutes after half time following sensational footwork to break free from several Spartak players, before his deflected effort reached the back of the net to make it 5-0 to the home side.
His stunning display now means he finishes the group with five goals and two assists from his five games, and is now on nine goals and six assists for the season after his equally impressive performance at Brighton last weekend.
The Reds are now unbeaten in their past eight Champions League games, winning three and drawing five, and became the fourth English team to top their Champions League group this season, the first time since 2006/07 that four English teams have finished first in a single group campaign. An unfavourable tie may lie ahead for Jurgen Klopp’s men, yet their opposition will be frightened at the fact that Liverpool banged in 23 goals and conceded just six in their six group games, while also remaining undefeated by winning three and drawing three.
Liverpool’s little magician will need to be on similar form as his side host Everton in the Merseyside derby this coming Sunday, a hugely-anticipated affair that Klopp’s men must win to keep both their pride and top four aspirations alive.