Liverpool secure much-needed win against Rangers to boost UCL hopes, as Nunez struggles for form

LIVERPOOL, England -- Jurgen Klopp's side improved their chances of making the Champions League knockout stage after their 2-0 win against Rangers at Anfield.

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Trent Alexander-Arnold scored a stunning free kick after being the subject of criticism for his defensive errors of late. Luis Diaz drew a foul in the second half in the penalty box, which Mohamed Salah then converted to seal the win for Liverpool.

Rangers are in dire form as they sit bottom of their group and have failed to score so far in any of their three Champions League matches this season.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid Reaction:

1. Liverpool make easy work of Rangers to boost Champions League hopes

Liverpool secured a much-needed win against Rangers as a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick and Mohamed Salah penalty completed a comfortable victory at Anfield and consolidated second spot in Champions League Group A. Having suffered a 4-1 defeat against Napoli in the opening game last month, last season's Champions League runners-up extended their revival in the group by moving three points clear of Ajax in the race to qualify for the knock-out stages. And although the game was short on incident and goals from open play, the victory was much-needed for Liverpool following a disappointing start to the league season that sees Jurgen Klopp's team currently lying in ninth position in the Premier League.

Klopp had said that his team needed to go back to basics and focus simply on getting the job done after seeing his side draw 3-3 at home to Brighton on Saturday. Fabinho was taken out of the starting line-up, replaced by Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara, as Klopp switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation, but it was Liverpool's greater quality rather than tactical tweaks that proved the undoing of Rangers. The Scottish club struggled to compete against the English team and Liverpool were never threatened by Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side. And after a run of indifferent results, Rangers provided the perfect opposition for Liverpool to get back to winning ways. It may be a different story next week at what is likely to be a noisy and intimidating Ibrox, but another win in Glasgow will give Liverpool a firm grip on qualification and it is difficult to envisage Rangers upsetting the Premier League team.

2. Nunez searching for form and confidence

Darwin Nunez looked a world-beater on his Liverpool debut against Manchester City in the Community Shield less than two months ago, but the £75 million summer signing from Benfica has now failed to score since the opening day of the season after another goalless display against Rangers. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said before this game that he and his assistant Pep Lijnders have spoken to the Uruguay international and attempted to reassure him that his performances will quickly improve. But the 23-year-old looked short of belief against Rangers and a number of missed chances will do little to boost his confidence.

Rangers keeper Allan McGregor made three key saves to deny Nunez a much-needed goal during the first-half at Anfield and although he provided a physical presence for Liverpool to play into up-front, it rarely ended with a neat move or interplay with his attacking team-mates. The three-match ban he had to serve following a red card against Crystal Palace, and then the two postponements due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, have combined to deny Nunez of the games and momentum he needed to find some consistency. Nunez has now gone six games without a goal. With Arsenal away on Sunday, Liverpool need him to start scoring soon.

3. Rangers out of their depth in Champions League

Rangers shocked Europe last season by making it all the way to the Europa League final, but the Scottish club have had a painful reality check in their first Champions League campaign since 2010. Giovanni van Bronckhorst's team were outclassed by Liverpool at Anfield and the gulf between the two sides was huge, despite Jurgen Klopp's side still being some way off their best form in the Premier League. Aside from goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who made a series of saves to keep the scoreline respectable, every Rangers player struggled to match up against their direct opponent and they looked a shadow of the side which defeated Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig on the way to losing the Europa League final on penalties against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.

Simply getting back to the Champions League group stages this season has been a major achievement for Rangers, who have seen rivals Celtic enjoy a number of campaigns in the competition over recent years. But although they are a club with a proud history and formidable support, Rangers look like rookies in the Champions League and their challenge now is to ensure that they don't end up with six straight defeats in Group A. After three games, they have no wins, no points and no goals, but it won't be easy to buck that trend in the remaining games against Liverpool, Napoli and Ajax.

Player ratings

Liverpool: Alisson 6; Alexander-Arnold 7, Matip 7, Van Dijk 7, Tsimikas 6; Henderson 6, Thiago 7 Salah 7, Jota 7, Diaz 7, Nunez 6.
Subs: Fabinho 6, Firmino 6, Elliott 6, Milner 6

Rangers: McGregor 9; Tavernier 5, Goldson 6, Davies 5, King 5, Barisic 5; Lundstram 5, Davis 6; Tillman 5, Kent 6, Morelos 4.
Subs: Sakala 6, Jack 6, Colak 6, Kamara 6, Matondo 6.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Allan McGregor

The Rangers goalkeeper performed a retirement U-turn at the end of last season and chose to continue for another year at Ibrox, and the 40-year-old justified that decision with a defiant display at Anfield. Rangers could have been humiliated but for McGregor.

WORST: Alfredo Morelos

The Colombia forward has scored at a rate of a goal almost every two games for Rangers since arriving in 2017, but despite his track record in Scotland, he failed to make any kind of impact against Liverpool, allowing Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip their easiest game of the season.

Highlights and notable moments

Trent Alexander-Arnold's excellent free kick gave Liverpool the lead in the 7th minute.

Salah doubled Liverpool's lead after Luis Diaz was fouled in the penalty box.

After the match: What the managers, players said

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp on the win: "I saw tonight a team fully committed, that's what I like a lot. It was exactly what we needed tonight. A new formation, we had to change things. We had plenty of chances, imagine if we had taken more of them. Really good game. Very important."

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst on the match: "We are competing against one of the best sides in Europe ...The level we face is very high and the level we have today wasn't good enough to get something out of the game."

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson: "It felt good out there. You try to not listen to social media, especially when you're going through a tough period as a team. But it can be difficult, it can hurt."

Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

- Since 2010-11, Trent Alexander-Arnold is the only Englishman with more than 1 direct free kick goal in Champions League play. Tuesday marked his 2nd after scoring one against Hoffenheim in qualifying play in Aug. 2017. Marcus Rashford, Steven Gerrard and Jadon Sancho each have 1 direct free kick goal in Champions League competitions since 2010-11.

- Mohamed Salah is now 1 goal shy of tying the record for most UCL goals scored by a player representing an English club.

Up next

Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp's side have a difficult set of fixtures ahead, as they face an in-form Arsenal next on Oct. 9, who are currently top of the Premier League, before a visit Rangers on Oct. 12 and then a home match against Manchester City. Liverpool are struggling in the Premier League in 9th place, and will look to turn things around in domestic competition after winning their last two Champions League matches.

Rangers: Currently in second place in the Scottish Premiership, Rangers face St. Mirren next on Oct. 8 before playing Liverpool in the Champions League and then Dundee FC in the Scottish League Cup quarterfinal.