Jota justifies start with stunning hat-trick as Liverpool trounce Atalanta

Man of the moment Diogo Jota scored a hat-trick as Liverpool claimed a breathtaking 5-0 win over Atalanta in the Champions League.

There was a lot of talk about Roberto Firmino’s place in the team in the build-up to the game, with Diogo Jota’s recent performances putting pressure on the Brazilian.

Indeed, Jurgen Klopp chose to replace Firmino with Jota in his starting XI against Atalanta. The Portugal international slotted straight into Firmino’s role in between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Klopp also gave a first Champions League start to young defender Rhys Williams, who replaced Nat Phillips – not included in their European squad list – next to Joe Gomez. The pairing eventually kept hold of their clean sheet – but it was Jota who stole the show.

Jota justified his selection after just 16 minutes by giving Liverpool the lead. After getting in behind the Atalanta defence, the ex-Wolves star dinked the ball over Marco Sportiello with his left foot.

Jota doubled his tally in the 33rd minute with an even better strike. Joe Gomez played an aerial ball forward, which the number 20 brought down with his left foot.

His touch took Atalanta full-back Hans Hateboer out of the game, before he struck the ball on the half-volley with a powerful right-footed effort. It arrowed into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.

Mane went close to extending the advantage to three moments later, forcing a good save from Sportiello after a curling effort from outside the box.

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Liverpool start second half in lightning fashion

Ultimately, Liverpool had to wait until the second half for their third goal, but got off the mark quickly – and in style – after the break.

Salah picked the ball up in his own half and burst forward at pace. As he arrived at the edge of the box, he cut back onto his stronger left foot, beating Hateboer’s challenge and curling the ball beyond Sportiello’s reach.

Just a minute later, Salah turned provider for Liverpool’s fourth goal. The Egyptian picked out Mane, who slotted home at the near post.

It was 5-0 after just 54 minutes, as Jota completed his first Liverpool hat-trick. Mane played the ball forward, with Jota just reaching it before onrushing keeper Sportiello.

It left the 23-year-old with a simple finish, and he made no mistake to bring up his treble.

Jota scored two hat-tricks for Wolves in the Europa League last season, and he showed how much his stock is rising by netting his first hat-trick in the superior Champions League. He has now scored more goals for Liverpool than Firmino in 2020, despite only joining in September.

Liverpool were in full flow by now, and a cheeky long-distance effort from Salah just after summed up their confidence. However, he could not quite catch Sportiello out.

With the lead more than convincing, Klopp took the opportunity to rest some players with a triple substitution in the 66th minute. One of the changes saw Firmino enter in place of hat-trick hero Jota.

As the game moved closer to its completion, Klopp also sent on Kostas Tsimikas for his first European appearance for Liverpool.

Salah then went close with another counter attacking run, but Sportiello denied him scoring a replica of his previous goal.

Atalanta finally found the back of the net in stoppage time, but Duvan Zapata’s goal was ruled out for offside. Hence, Liverpool kept their clean sheet.

The 5-0 win puts them in a commanding position at the top of Group D, having won their first three games of the Champions League campaign.

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