GENK, Belgium (Reuters) - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain marked his return to the Champions League arena with two superb goals as Liverpool claimed their first group stage win on the road for two years with a 4-1 triumph at Belgian club Racing Genk on Wednesday.
It was not as comfortable as the scoreline suggests but two sublime finishes by Oxlade-Chamberlain, playing his first game in the competition since suffering a serious knee injury in the semi-final against Roma 18 months ago, put Liverpool in control before Sadio Mane and Mo Salah sealed the points.
Genk got a late consolation through Stephen Odey.
Victory lifted Liverpool to six points, one behind Group E leaders Napoli, although the evening began on a sour note when a banner depicting striker Divock Origi was removed from the away end with Liverpool condemning it as racist. [L5N2786MF]
Liverpool had not won away from home in group play since a 7-0 win in Maribor two years ago but ended that sequence in emphatic fashion with a clinical display of firepower.
“I’ve definitely missed (the Champions League),” Oxlade-Chamberlain, who sat out almost the whole of last season, said. “It’s nice to be back in the starting line-up and put in a performance to help the team.”
It took them only two minutes for Oxlade-Chamberlain to make his mark. Receiving the ball just outside the area in a central position he took aim and fired a low shot inside the post.
Genk, who held Napoli to a 0-0 draw on matchday two after a 6-2 thrashing by Salzburg, were not about to roll over and their pace caused several alarms in the Liverpool defence.
A ball over the top released Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta but he shot wide and soon afterwards Paul Onuachu also got behind the Liverpool defence but was denied by Alisson.
A wide-open match then saw Liverpool go close to a second goal when Roberto Firmino’s clever flick release Mane inside the area but his shot was saved by Gaëtan Coucke.
The chances came thick and fast and Liverpool had a let-off in the 26th minute when Samatta’s bullet header beat Alisson but his celebrations were cut short when referee Slavko Vincic disallowed it and a lengthy VAR check backed up the most marginal of offside decisions.
Genk were still in the hunt but Oxlade-Chamberlain gave Liverpool breathing space in the 57th minute with a goal of supreme skill. Firmino played the ball back to the former Arsenal man and he dug out a first-time shot with the outside of his right foot that flew past Coucke and in off the bar.
Mane gave the scoreline a rather flattering look when he finished off a superb move after 77 minutes and Salah rubbed salt into the hosts’ wounds with a silky turn and deft finish as Genk finally began to run out of steam.
Liverpool’s win made it a full house for the four English clubs in Champions League action this week with Chelsea winning earlier and Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Lovell