Liverpool waltzed into the Champions League knockout phase after blowing Spartak Moscow away with a first half onslaught that continued remorselessly after the break. It augurs well for their future ambitions.
This is the first time since 2009 that Liverpool have progressed to the last 16 but, given how heavily they have scored in the Group stages, Jurgen Klopp will be looking much further than just two more games in February and March.
Here Sportsmail looks at five key aspects to emerge from this latest victory.
There are ways to make a mark as captain and Philippe Coutinho could not have done any more than he did here. His first contribution was the deep cross that led to Mo Salah being hauled down for a penalty; his second was to score from 12 yards and that set the tone for a magical display.
What Coutinho achieved in scoring a hat-trick should not be downplayed. It is the first time a Liverpool player has plundered a treble at Anfield since Luis Suarez in December 2013 and the first in Europe since Steven Gerrard trampled all over Napoli in the UEFA Cup here in November 2010.
Liverpool’s captain for the night Coutinho scored his first penalty for the club on Wednesday
There were signs in the autumn that, perhaps, the lingering effects not joining Barcelona were compromising his ability to influence games and that feeling persisted as recently as November 25 when he was overshadowed by Eden Hazard in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea.
His last two performances, though, have been outstanding and if he continues in this vein, all the money in the world won’t convince Liverpool to sell him at any point in the future.
GOALS, GOALS, GOALS
Real Madrid’s demolition of Juventus in the Champions League final earlier this year was a landmark game for the modern era. When they got 2-1 up in Cardiff, Real went for it and simply obliterated what had been the meanest defence in the competition.
Those who want to be successful in Kiev next summer will, most likely, follow a similar route to Madrid and the teams who score the heaviest will go the furthest. It will, hopefully, make the knockout phase a fiesta and, accordingly, nobody will be underplaying Liverpool’s potential.
Top scorer Mohamed Salah claimed his 18th of the season in Champions League rout
Only Paris St Germain (25) outscored Liverpool (23) in the group phase and the way in which Klopp’s front four are dovetailing – never more sweetly than for Coutinho’s second goal in the 15th minute – means they will not be found wanting if it comes to a shootout somewhere on the continent.
Yes, the Russians and Maribor hardly represent the kind of teams Liverpool will be paired with in Nyon but it is impossible to pull holes in the fact Liverpool scored seven twice in six group stage matches, plus two three-goal hauls.
Spartak, for the record, were beaten so comprehensively that they recorded their heaviest ever loss in Europe. The previous worst? 5-0 – against Liverpool in the Champions League group stage at Anfield in September 2002.
Liverpool fans could relax and enjoy the goal glut at Anfield on Wednesday night
MATCH SETTLING, ATMOSPHERE KILLING?
European nights under the floodlights are fabled at Anfield and Jurgen Klopp hoped the old stadium would be bouncing for Spartak’s arrival, given the significance of what was at stake.
But, in some ways, the blitzkrieg start and three goals in the first 19 minutes actually killed the atmosphere. The game was dead at that point, the outcome known, and it ensured the ambience was rather mundane for the remainder, simply because Liverpool turned the match into a procession.
The way Anfield’s new stadium has been constructed, the noise hangs inside the stadium and it is to be hoped the volume will be turned up for whoever they face in the last 16, regardless of whether it is, say, Real Madrid or Basel. This venue needs its edge back.
With Everton resting the majority of their first team squad for tomorrow’s deadrubber in Limassol, many would have assumed Klopp would have taken the chance to keep some fresh legs for Sunday’s Merseyside derby once they had taken care of business.
It was revealing, though, that Klopp decided to remove Dejan Lovren in the second half to preserve his central defender for Sunday then withdraw Roberto Firmino, when he could have taken any of Coutinho, Sadio Mane or Mo Salah off.
James Milner may have forced his way into the starting line-up against Everton on Sunday
Perhaps the most revealing change, though, was the introduction of James Milner for the injured Alberto Moreno at half-time. Should the Spanish left-back not be fit, Klopp will have a decision to make about who to play at left-back this weekend.
Andrew Robertson, who has hardly figured since arriving from Hull in the summer, will be many people’s idea but after coming on and contributing three assists, can James Milner really be overlooked?
A HURTING CAPTAIN
Rotation is the word that has become the bane of Liverpool’s squad, even if it is a necessary evil to get through a fixture list that resembles a traffic jam.
One man who will hate the word more than most, however, is captain Jordan Henderson. He was desperate to figure against Spartak and his programme notes were emotive, referring to the fixture as a “cup final” and “the most important of the season”.
He will be devastated to have been left on the bench. You can guarantee he will be desperate to make up for this absence whenever he is next called upon.