There was still an outside chance that the Reds could have slipped out of the qualification places altogether had they lost and Sevilla had beaten Maribor away.
After 18 minutes, though, it was job done: 3-0 up and in cruise control. Jürgen Klopp’s men looked dangerous every time they attacked, exposing the Russian outfit’s defensive frailties and dominating possession.
With Philippe Coutinho (hat-trick), Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino all on the scoresheet, and a clean sheet at the other end, it was as comfortable a night as Liverpool could reasonably have hoped for.
Here are the five things we learned.
Salah, Firmino And Mané – One Of The Best Front Threes In Europe
Pace, creativity, intelligence and deadly finishing: Liverpool‘s forward line has got it all in spades.
Between them, Salah, Firmino and Mané combined for 11 shots, five key passes and nine dribbles.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Liverpool’s attacking trident, though, is their wonderfully intuitive movement. The three men seem to have a telepathic understanding, with every move one makes designed to create space for another.
In the kind of form they showed against Spartak, accounting for four of the seven goals on the night, there are few front threes in Europe that can match Liverpool’s for sheer speed, potency and the ability to ruthlessly shred an opponent to pieces when they smell blood.
Coutinho Keeps Getting Better Despite Speculation
Although the front three shone, Coutinho, orchestrating play from midfield, was the game’s undoubted standout performer.
The brilliant Brazilian, who wore the captain’s arm band in the first half before handing it over to substitute James Milner at the interval, was majestic.
He opened the scoring with a coolly taken penalty, doubled the Reds’ lead shortly after with a neat, slotted finish, and completed his hat-trick minutes into the second half with a deflected 20-yard effort.
But Coutinho’s display was about more than just his goals. The 25-year-old Barcelona transfer target had more touches (100) and made more passes (73) than any other player on the pitch.
Coutinho’s continued improvement and dedication despite rumours of a move to Catalonia refusing to go away is to the former Inter Milan man’s great credit.
Whether he stays for another month, another year or beyond, no one can question Coutinho’s commitment to Liverpool’s cause on the pitch.
Clean Sheet Boost After Sevilla Collapse
Entering the interval with a commanding 3-0 lead, Liverpool fans could have been forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive, as last time out, away to Sevilla, a second-half collapse saw the Reds squander the same advantage.
There was no such trouble this time around, though. In fact, Liverpool appeared only more determined to add to their tally for the night in the second period, scoring four more times in all.
The way they held their nerve and remained in absolute control of the game, limiting Spartak to only fleeting glimpses of goal from distance, meant that the Anfield side were never in danger of letting their last-16 qualification plans fall into doubt.
Liverpool Set Scoring Record
The 22 goals the Reds have racked up in the Champions League proper this term is a new record for English clubs in the group stage of the competition.
Two 7-0 victories, one here and one away to Maribor, as well as November’s 3-3 draw with Sevilla at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, have shown just how potent this exciting Liverpool side can be.
Few teams in Europe can match Klopp’s Reds when it comes to firepower, and the addition of Salah this season appears to have taken their attacking game to a whole new level.
Winning Group No Guarantee Of A Favourable Last-16 Draw
In theory, finishing top of your Champions League group helps secure an easier draw for the first knockout round, with your potential opponents coming from the pool of runners-up from the other groups.
This season, though, an unfortunate draw could make finishing as group winners feel more like a curse than a gift.
Although sides like Basel and Porto would represent a relatively straightforward passage to the quarter-finals for Liverpool, the fact that Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus finished runners-up in their respective groups means there are some dangerous banana skins out there for the table toppers.