Red Star Belgrade wound back the clock to its European heyday as two goals from striker Milan Pavkov helped the Serbian side record a memorable 2-0 Champions League home victory over Liverpool in Group C.
The result left Liverpool facing a tricky path to the knockout stages, although it still has its fate in its own hands. Red Star’s fervent fans were taken down memory lane before kick-off, as several of its stalwarts who were part of the team that beat Liverpool 4-2 on aggregate in the 1973-74 European Cup were paraded by the touchline. Pavkov, a surprise starter up front as Red Star’s third-choice striker, gave the home side a 22nd-minute lead when he headed home from the edge of the six-yard box after a Marko Marin corner from the right. It was no more than Red Star deserved after the opening 20 minutes, with centre back Vujadin Savic firing over early on before El Fardou Ben Nabouhane forced Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker to palm his low drive from 25 metres around the post. Alisson could do nothing, however, as Marin swung in the corner and Pavkov rose above his markers to spark wild celebrations among the 55,000 home crowd.
The atmosphere reached fever pitch seven minutes later as Pavkov doubled the host’s advantage, rifling a screaming shot from 25 metres, with Alisson well beaten. Liverpool, whose midfield struggled against its more aggressive opponent, lost possession on the half-way line and Pavkov shrugged off Georginio Wijnaldum to find the time and space to unleash an unstoppable shot. Mohamed Salah fired over the bar shortly afterwards to sum up a poor first half for Liverpool, with Daniel Sturridge also missing an early chance for the visitor when he skied his volley from close range. Salah missed two good chances within a minute for Liverpool midway through the second half, forcing a good save from Red Star keeper Milan Borjan before he shaved the outside of the post with a shot from the edge of the penalty box.
The outstanding Borjan again denied Salah from close range in the 82nd minute as Liverpool piled on the pressure, but the visitor could not find a way through Red Star’s packed and well-organised defence.