Liverpool “had the perfect night” in the Europa League as they scored five goals, cemented their favourites tag, gave two players debuts and shook off one of the misses of the season.
Following another entertaining, attacking display they have tasted victory in 10 of their 13 matches this season, and kept up their perfect winning record at the top of Group E in Europe’s secondary tournament.
“Most of the time we were in complete control,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told TNT Sports. “We made good goals, nobody got hurt, perfect night.
“I think it’s really easy to fall in love with this team. There is so much excitement in it. We have to make massive steps, we have to grow, we have to do a lot of things – but a lot of the signs are really promising.”
After their brilliant start his side will advance to the knockout stages with two matches to spare if they beat Toulouse in their next Europa League game in two weeks’ time.
“This squad could go all the way in the Champions League,” added an impressed former England midfielder Cole.
“They have to win this competition because anything else isn’t good enough.”
Liverpool are three-time Europa League winners having last lifted the trophy in 2001 when it was the Uefa Cup.
After the full-time whistle, stand-in captain Trent Alexander-Arnold told TNT Sports it is a “competition we have taken seriously and people will see that”.
Liverpool are favourites to clinch the title in Dublin in May, and, even after making eight changes to the side that beat Everton in the Premier League at the weekend, looked a level above Toulouse.
Cole told TNT: “It’s ominous for the Europa League and the Premier League. They are rocking and rolling. Once Liverpool get momentum, they are very hard to stop.
“You can only see this team going very deep in every competition. The good times are back. How did they find themselves in this competition?”
Former England forward Eni Aluko added: “It almost feels Liverpool are too big for this competition, no disrespect to everyone else. This is what you expect, They should be dominating.”
Netherlands international Ryan Gravenberch, 21, was particularly impressive in the middle of the pitch and deservedly grabbed his second ever goal for the Reds in the 65th minute.
Throughout the fixture the summer signing from Bayern Munich shrugged off defenders and drove his side forward, having more shots on target than any other Liverpool player.
“His first touch is incredible, [as is his] his acceleration with the ball,” Klopp added.
“He’s not even halfway there. The good thing is that he has a lot of things to improve.”
There was also a first start for teenager Luke Chambers, and debuts for substitutes Calum Scanlon and James McConnell as Liverpool were able to rest their usual starters and ease in their next generation.
“We have a lot of good boys and we trust them,” said Klopp.
“In good moments, you can give the boys opportunities.”
Forward Darwin Nunez was trending on social media for a combination of an impressive striking display and a missed sitter.
Having already converted a much harder chance before the break, Nunez cruised past the goalkeeper, finding himself with an open goal – but somehow struck the post.
Ultimately Nunez’s miss did not matter, as the ball ricocheted to Gravenberch who blasted it into the net.
And the Uruguayan, who has scored five goals in all competitions, was even able to crack a smile at his own misfortunate as he ran over to congratulate his team-mate.
“[Darwin] played incredible,” Klopp said. “Honestly in this moment I couldn’t care less that he hits the post because everything before was super convincing, how he took the defender away, how he went past the goalie, it was a perfect situation.
“He played really good, the goal he scored, the situations he was in. He is in a good moment and for us that’s really important. I’m really pleased for him. Yes it’s a bit of slapstick when the ball doesn’t go in, but Ryan puts it in and it’s cool.”
Cole added on TNT: “It is cruel to say it sums him up.
“He gets an A-star for every aspect but his finishing is probably a C.
“Didier Drogba when he arrived [at Chelsea] wasn’t as polished either, and Liverpool will hope he turns into that type of striker as he gets older.”