Diogo Jota scored a hat-trick as Liverpool thrashed Atalanta 5-0 in the Champions League.
Picked ahead of the out-of-sorts Roberto Firmino, the Portuguese strengthened his claim to a regular starting berth with three brilliantly taken goals in Bergamo.
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane also got on the scoresheet as Jurgen Klopp’s men took complete control of Group D with a convincing away win over another of their supposed rivals for top spot.
A clash between two of Europe’s most free-scoring sides was always going to produce chances, and the start of the first half did not disappoint in that regard.
Just two minutes had elapsed when Jota danced through the Atalanta defence before drawing a smart stop from Marco Sportiello, an opening that was quickly followed by Luis Muriel forcing Alisson Becker into action at the other end with a deflected strike.
The opportunities continued to come thick and fast from there but, crucially, it was the visitors who took one of theirs first.
Played in behind by a beautifully weighted Trent Alexander-Arnold pass, Jota showed the confidence of a man who had scored three times in in the last three games, shrugging off Jose Luis Palomino and dinking the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
And adding another goal to that impressive haul appeared to have done his self-belief little harm when he latched onto a ball over the top with half an hour gone, touching it around his man and lashing an effort in at the near post to make it 2-0.
Just two minutes into the second half, Salah’s sprint in behind a wide-open Atalanta defence was picked out by Curtis Jones, and the Egyptian was customarily ruthless with the subsequent left-footed finish into the top corner.
Having equalled Steven Gerrard’s haul of 21 goals in Europe’s elite competition, Salah turned provider two minutes later, playing Mane in behind for a beautiful dinked effort that made a mockery of Sportiello’s attempt to close the angle.
It was then that Jota capped a remarkable start to the second period, beating the keeper to a Mane pass to round him and coolly finish from distance.
To their credit, Atalanta came close to mustering a response, Duvan Zapata hammering the inside of the post after leaving Joe Gomez for dead before drawing a good save from Alisson after driving through the visitors’ defence.
But, as had been the case all evening, Liverpool’s supremacy was never in doubt.
What does it mean? Reds in control
With just three games played, Liverpool now boast a handy five-point lead over both Atalanta and Ajax at the top of Group D.
The Reds are now major favourites to not only progress to the knockout stages but to do so as group winners.
Jota keeps up dream start
One of the main question marks over Jota following his move from Wolves was whether he could be transformed from a streaky finisher into a ruthless Liverpool winger.
Three goals from four shots here certainly suggests so, while a pass completion rate of just 68.4 per cent shows there are still plenty of areas for further improvement too.
Toloi sums up difficult night
When Jota skipped past him to get a shot away in just the second minute, it looked like it was going to be a long night for Rafael Toloi.
And so it proved, the defender surrendering possession 15 times, making just two tackles, and completing only 71.1 per cent of his passes.
Key Opta Facts
– Liverpool’s 5-0 win was the biggest ever by an English club away to Italian opposition in European competition.
– Atalanta’s defeat was the second biggest ever by an Italian side on home soil in European competition, after Roma’s 7-1 loss to Bayern Munich in October 2014 in the Champions League.
– Liverpool have won each of their last four away games in the Champions League group stage, after losing four in a row before this between October 2018 and September 2019 (all under Jurgen Klopp).
– Liverpool boss Klopp finally won away in Italy in the Champions League after losing on each of his five previous visits in the competition, courtesy of defeats to Napoli (3), Juventus and Roma.
– This was only the second time in Champions League history that Liverpool started with two teenagers, via Rhys Williams and Curtis Jones (also Danny Guthrie and Lee Peltier versus Galatasaray in December 2006).
Klopp’s men have an equally crucial Premier League away trip up next, as they visit title rivals Manchester City on Sunday. Atalanta, meanwhile, welcome Inter Milan to Bergamo the same day.