Liverpool beats Salzburg 4-3 after throwing away 3-goal lead

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah controls the ball during the Champions League group E soccer match between Liverpool and Red Bull Salzburg at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah controls the ball during the Champions League group E soccer match between Liverpool and Red Bull Salzburg at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Liverpool, England (AP) — Liverpool recovered from throwing away a three-goal lead against Salzburg as Mohamed Salah’s 69th-minute strike earned the titleholders a wild 4-3 win in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Trailing 3-0 after 36 minutes following goals by Sadio Mane, Andrew Robertson and Salah, Salzburg stunned the Premier League leaders by scoring three unanswered goals itself in 21 minutes either side of halftime at Anfield. The 60th-minute equalizer was tapped in by Erling Braut Haaland for his fourth goal of the competition already.

Salah regained the lead for Liverpool by running onto Roberto Firmino’s flicked header and cushioning a left-foot shot into the net, and the Reds held firm to collect their first points in group play after opening up with a 2-0 loss at Napoli.

Salzburg signaled it might be one of the most entertaining sides in this season’s Champions League by thrashing Genk 6-2 in the first round of games, with Haaland scoring a hat trick to bolster his reputation as one of the most exciting young strikers in Europe.

And the Austrian team played its part in what proved to be a shootout at Anfield as Liverpool forged ahead by playing some breathtaking football before showing defensive brittleness that has crept into its game this season.

“It’s better to learn the lessons during the game than talk about it after,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. “I thought we were outstanding in the first 30 minutes, then the Salzburg system changed and we lost the ball so that caused us problems.

“The momentum changed and it was really difficult to get a foot in the game.”

Mane, who scored 42 goals in two seasons for Salzburg from 2012-14, opened the scoring by jinking in from the left, playing a one-two with Firmino, and slotting his finish past the goalkeeper in the ninth minute.

The second goal was a flowing team move that was finished off by Liverpool’s two flying full backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold crossing from the right and left back Robertson turning the ball home from close range in the 25th.

Alexander-Arnold and Robertson had 25 assists between them in the Premier League last season and they have already both scored goals this season.

“Robbo can’t get an assist if he’s scoring,” Alexander-Arnold wrote on Twitter, adding: “(hashtag)CleverTrent.”

When Salah scored off a rebound in the 36th after Firmino’s header was parried out, Liverpool looked like running up a big score.

Yet Salzburg crucially got back in the game before halftime when Hwang Hee-chan achieved the rarely seen feat of turning Virgil van Dijk – leaving the Liverpool defender sprawling on the turf – and fired his shot into the corner.

Because of a scoreboard malfunction inside Anfield, the screens showed: Liverpool 3, Salzburg 3.

Before long, that was the score.

Takumi Minamino met a left-wing cross with a volley into the ground and past goalkeeper Adrian in the 56th minute, and the Japanese forward set up the equalizer for Haaland with a low cross into the area that the substitute couldn’t miss.

Salzburg’s American coach, Jesse Marsch, sprinted down the touchline to join in the celebrations with his players in front of the team’s fans.

Salah ensured they were short-lived.

“This group is really difficult,” Klopp said, “but we wanted the three points and now it’s game on.”