Champions League: Liverpool hit seven as they storm into the last 16

Jurgen Klopp’s side join Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd and Spurs in knockout stage

Philippe Coutinho Liverpool Champions League
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho scored a hat-trick in the 7-0 win against Spartak Moscow
(Image credit: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool 7 Spartak Moscow

It was a game of numbers Anfield last night. Not only did Liverpool put seven past Spartak Moscow but three of those came from the boot of Philippe Coutinho (his first hat-trick for the Reds) and in routing the Russians the Merseysiders became the fifth English club to qualify for the last 16 of this season’s Champions League.

To top it all, Liverpool’s 23 goals overall make them the highest scoring English team in a Champions League group campaign,

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They join Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham in Monday’s last 16 draw and the manner of their emphatic victory over Spartak will make the rest of Europe sit up and take note.

Going into the game last night Liverpool were still unsure of qualification for the knockout phase. They had to avoid defeat to progress from Group E, the sort of scenario that in the past has got to Jurgen Klopp’s side, burdening them with a pressure that stifled their creativity. Not last night.

They were one up within four minutes and three up after 20, Coutinho scoring twice and Roberto Firmino once.

But it was after the break that Liverpool painted the town red, Sadio Mane volleying a superb goal on 47 minutes to set the tone for the rest of the half. Coutinho completed his hat-trick a short time later and Mane grabbed a second with Mohamed Salah making it a magnificent seven four minutes from time.

Poor Spartak, who had held the Reds to a draw in Moscow earlier in the campaign, were simply blown away as Liverpool qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since 2008-09.

Of less importance to the Kop is the fact their win means that five Premier League clubs have qualified for the last 16 for the first time in the same season.

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Qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League is one thing but as Arsenal fans are aware, progressing further is a challenge that in recent seasons has proved problematic for English clubs.

When Klopp was asked if he thought his side were credible title challengers, the Liverpool manager replied: “If we perform like this, if we are that clinical, then yes… but we had the same players before and they didn’t score and then it is not that we talk like this. That is not a criticism of the past. If we perform like this then we are a threat, 100%.”

Liverpool have succeeded where many of Europe’s heavyweights have failed and qualified top of their group, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can expect a comfortable draw when the last 16 is decided on Monday.

“It’s strange this year in the group stages, there are a lot of really strong teams in second place,” said Klopp.

“Obviously all the teams in the last 16 are strong but this year is quite special. It’s not often you can face Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Juve if you win your group. [Chelsea manager] Antonio Conte said it yesterday - there are no easy opponents and I don’t think anyone is happy when they get us in the draw. We will not be happy when we see who we face in the next round, but we will ready.”

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Joining Liverpool in the last 16 as group winners are Tottenham, who ended their campaign with a cruise-control 3-0 win against Apoel, a victory notable for the fact that Fernando Llorente scored his first Tottenham goal in his 17th appearance, and Manchester City.

The Sky Blues had already secured top spot in Group F and Pep Guardiola’s men clearly had one eye on Sunday’s Manchester derby as they travelled to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Their 2-1 defeat was City’s first reverse in 29 matches but Guardiola didn’t seem too dejected.

“I’m happy for the performance,” he said. “We came here to win, we couldn’t but we were trying until the end to do so… now we are going to rest, come back tomorrow and prepare for the game [against United].”

Last night’s Champions League results

Group E

  • Liverpool 7 Spartak Moscow 0
  • NK Maribor 1 Sevilla 1

Group F

  • Feyenoord 2 Napoli 1
  • Shakhtar Donetsk 2 Manchester City 1

Group G

  • FC Porto 5 Monaco 2
  • RB Leipzig 1 Besiktas 2

Group H

  • Real Madrid 3 Borussia Dortmund 2
  • Tottenham Hotspur 3 Apoel Nicosia 0

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