A resurgent Liverpool FC were 5-0 victors over Burton Albion in the EFL Cup second round clash at a sold-out Pirelli Stadium.
On a recall to the first team, frontman Divock Origi backheeled a tap-in to open the scoring in the 15th minute, before Brazilian Roberto Firmino made it two on 22, heading from Nathaniel Clyne’s whipped in ball from the right.
After the break, Brewers defender Tom Naylor knocked in an own goal on 61′, before a late double from sub Daniel Sturridge rounded out a convincingly dominant win by the Premier League giants.
It wasn’t the way Burton wanted the start of their special week to begin, as they hosted the Merseyside giants following their first round win versus Bury and their first competitive local derby against Championship rivals Derby County on Friday to come.
Perhaps with that game in mind, manager Nigel Clough made a host of changes to his side, which has had a good start to the season, with sub keeper Stephen Bywater making his debut and loan midfielder Hamza Choudhury returning to the side.
His counterpart, the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp stuck with the core of his team that both blew away Arsenal 4-3 in the season opener, before being suffocated at Turf Moor by Burnley, losing 2-0 at the weekend.
Albion had a good start to the game, even having an early shout for a penalty as Dejan Lovren had contact with forward Stuart Beavon in the Reds penalty box, but to no avail.
Early passages of play saw Lucas Akins used as an option down the right-hand side, his pace and delivery doing well early on, with the returning Choudhury also impressing with some tidy passing in the middle of the park.
However, it was Liverpool that had the first shot of the game, Saido Mane and Origi combining for the a shot by the latter straight at the Brewers’ Bywater. It was a sign of things to come.
Firmino was the next to test the reserve keeoer, some lovely work by Adam Lallana down the right wing resulting in a header by the forward, being turned around the post.
Just four minutes later, the Reds were ahead.Recently retired England man James Milner, playing in his new left-back position combined well with Firmino, the former finding Mane at the back post. The £34million man jinked past defender Damian McCrory before centring for the Belgian Origi to backheel a tidy finish home from 2 yards out.
It was a kicker for Burton but was always on the cards, as the home side were waning following their impressive start, yet worse was to come.
Just minutes later, Bywater hit a poor clearance from his goalmouth, which found Mane inside the opposing half. The forward ran at the defense, slipping in the rampaging Clyne down the right, whose whipped ball found Firmino for an easy 2-0, heading beyond a flapping, embarrassed Bywater.
At this stage, the tie was effectively dead, as Liverpool had squeezed the life out of their Championship opponents, forcing errors and regular turnovers in possession with their relentless pressing game that boss Klopp employs so well.
Nigel Clough would’ve wanted to see more from his ineffective wing-backs Akins and Lloyd Dyer, both wingers by trade who were enforced into defensive duties, which meant striking duo Beavon and Butcher had a fruitless evening up top against international defenders in Lovren and Matip.
Sadio Mane was the standout player on the pitch, his every touch and movement causing the Burton defence no manner of trouble, and he was unfortunate to not be awarded a penalty late in the first half as Kyle McFadzean clipped his achilles just inside the box.
The move to replace Australian midfielder Jackson Irvine at half-time could’ve been seen as one of defeat by Clough, as the young Matty Palmer came on during the break.
However, Burton looked more up for the game, and forced a succession of corners early on to exuberant chants of ‘Brewers! Brewers!’ from behind the attacking goal. They didn’t amount to much though, as they still found it difficult to string together any meaningful periods of possession.
Alas it was well and truly game over on the hour mark, as Milner’s inswinging corner take a flick-on from the German Emre Can, before flicking in off the unfortunate Tom Naylor, who’d been more accustomed to scoring at the other end so far this season.
At this point on, it had to be damage limitation for Burton as sloppy defending and poor possession had been key themes of their night’s work thus far. A succession of substitutes made the game flow as well as a pre-season friendly game with the feel of one, too.
The one negative for Klopp will have been what looked liked a serious injury for midfield Can, whose attempted tackle saw him look in real pain. He did leave the pitch unaided by a stretcher, but Klopp will no doubt be hoping to retain a key player of his.
By this stage the home side looked leggy and were waiting for the final whistle, however, the introduction of England’s Daniel Sturridge showed how seriously the Merseyside team were taking the tie.
It was he that found the net next, sliding in at the far post or a tap-in to put the finishing touches to interplay from Milner and Mane.
A matter of minutes were sandwiched between his second goal, but it was that man Mane who was the real player of the game. He picked up the ball on the right-hand side, cutting and driving inside the Brewers defence, before centring for the England man to sweep into the right-hand side of the goal.
Perhaps five was slightly unfair on Burton, but they offered little threat against one of England’s most successful teams of all time. They recorded no shots on target and were the victims of their own downfall with lapses in concentration leading to many of the goals conceded.
Still, as Clough made everyone aware, the focus will be immediately switching to Friday night and a big game back at the Pirelli for the visit of Derby County, and they’ll be hoping to play a lot better against the Rams.
As for Liverpool, they picked themselves off the floor from a humbling at Burnley to trounce a side in a dangerous looking tie at the start of the night. They go to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday looking to sign off for the international break in style.
BURTON ALBION: Bywater, Naylor, McFadzean, McCrory, Irvine (Palmer 46), Choudhury, Williamson, Dyer (Fox 64), Akins (Harness 64), Butcher, Beavon
Subs not used: McLaughlin, Turner, O’Grady, Delaney.
LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner, Henderson, Can (Stewart 71), Lallana (Wijnaldum 63) , Firmino (Sturridge 63), Origi, Mane
Subs not used: Manninger, Klavan, Moreno, Ings.
Goals: Origi (15), Firmino (22), Naylor OG (60), Sturridge (78, 83)
Referee: Simon Hooper