Thiago Alcantara oozed class, Aston Villa’s youngsters captured hearts and Sadio Mane got on with scoring the goals.
But beyond the banner headlines emerged significant encouragement on a curious night for Liverpool.
And it couldn’t have been any more timely.
Xherdan Shaqiri had been on the Villa Park pitch a mere two minutes when, after accepting a pass from Thiago, he clipped a delicate ball into the area which Mane met to loop home a header for the Reds’ third goal.
Two minutes later, Shaqiri was again fed in space by Thiago and this time slipped a pass into the box for Mohamed Salah to turn and thump home to seal a 4-1 triumph in Friday’s FA Cup third round mismatch.
Game and spirited as they were, Villa’s Academy players didn’t exactly represent the toughest opposition Jurgen Klopp’s side will face this season.
It was telling, though, that Shaqiri made a positive difference following his introduction.
Such has been the way for the Swiss this season. At Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup in September, he opened the scoring with a sumptuous free-kick and impressed in a deeper midfield role.
Shaqiri’s only other start, at home to FC Midtjylland in the Champions League, saw him play the defence-splitting pass from which Trent Alexander-Arnold crossed for Diogo Jota to open the scoring.
Four days later, the Swiss came off the bench to supply Jota the winning goal against West Ham United with another sliderule ball.
And despite Shaqiri playing for only 34 minutes as a substitute at Southampton earlier this month, only Andy Robertson made more key passes for Liverpool during the entire match.
Pretty impressive. But the issue with Shaqiri is the one that has dogged him for much of his Anfield career – availability.
When fit, the 29-year-old has usually been utilised having only three times been an unused substitute this season. The problem is that still only equates to eight appearances.
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Indeed, it speaks volumes that Shaqiri has played only 84 minutes in the Premier League this term and hasn’t started a top-flight match since scoring at home to Everton in December 2019.
That may change in the coming weeks as Liverpool look to address the lack of creativity from midfield that has seen them reeled in by their title rivals.
Shaqiri will most likely be restricted to bench duty for the visit of Manchester United on Sunday, hoping no doubt to replicate his performance of December 2018 when two goals as a late substitute earned a 3-1 win.
But starting opportunities will surely arise in the coming weeks with the Premier League champions facing seven games in 21 days.
Of course, matters would have been very different had Shaqiri chosen to leave ahead of the October transfer deadline.
Liverpool had no intention of pushing the player out, but wouldn’t stand in his way with a number of potential suitors expressing genuine interest.
Instead, Shaqiri stayed put. And matters since have underlined both the positives and negatives of the Swiss during his time at Liverpool.