This story has been reproduced from today's media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.
Liverpool were indebted to an unlikely hero as they got their Europa League campaign back on track with a hard-fought win over Russian big-spenders Anzhi at Anfield.
Stewart Downing's stock has fallen dramatically over the past 15 months since the Reds paid Aston Villa £20million for his services.
The transition from England international winger to makeshift Liverpool left-back has been painful for Downing, who has slipped further and further down the pecking order since Brendan Rodgers took over. He hasn't started a Premier League game since August and the manager has openly questioned his hunger and desire to fight for a place.
However, when the Reds were in need of inspiration last night Downing delivered with a memorable 25-yard piledriver to end Anzhi's stubborn resistance.
Victory put Liverpool top of Group A following Young Boys' shock win over Udinese and was the perfect tonic ahead of Sunday's Merseyside derby.
Rodgers' side will head to Goodison with momentum after back to back home wins and three successive clean sheets.
Defeat to Udinese on matchday two had left the Reds in a precarious position in the group and Rodgers' team selection reflected that.
Despite the looming showdown with Everton, there were starts for skipper Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson.
The only changes from the league victory over Reading saw the trio of Joe Allen, Suso and Raheem Sterling rested and named among the substitutes.
Jonjo Shelvey started in midfield with Downing and Oussama Assaidi handed the chance to impress either side of Suarez.
Russian League leaders Anzhi arrived on a high on the back of a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions. Three-times Champions League winner Samuel Eto'o, whose £350,000 per week wages make him the highest paid player on the planet, started up front, with ex-Blackburn defender Chris Samba and former Chelsea full-back Yuri Zhirkov also in their line up.
In the space of 18 months, billionaire owner Suleiman Kerimov's extravagant spending has helped transform Anzhi from also-rans in a region plagued by poverty and terrorism to the dominant force in their homeland and contenders for European silverware.
Veteran Dutch coach Guus Hiddink has the kind of transfer kitty Rodgers can only dream of and they appear destined for next season's Champions League.
The Reds started brightly with the lively Assaidi linking up well with Johnson to cause Kamil Agalarov plenty of problems down the left.
Assaidi teed up Suarez early on but the Uruguayan's low strike was easy for keeper Vladimir Gabulov.
Anzhi made life tough for the hosts by sitting back and challenging the Reds to break them down.
Midway through the first half Assaidi latched on to Johnson's pass and worked his way into the penalty box. The Moroccan picked out Johnson, whose left footer was parried by Gabulov.
Suarez was forced to increasingly drop deep in order to get on the ball but when he did burst forward centre-backs Samba and Joao Carlos struggled to contain him.
Samba, who claims he was lured from Blackburn to Dagestan by the "exciting project" rather than £100,000 a week, went into the book for a crude challenge on the striker.
Suarez pounced on Joao Carlos' slip soon after and squared for Shelvey but the young midfielder's composure deserted him as he lashed high over the bar.
Assaidi was denied by Gabulov at his near post after dispossessing Agalarov in the box and 10 minutes before the break the Reds had appeals for a penalty waved away.
Anzhi were expertly carved open as Johnson and Suarez exchanged passes in the area. The Reds full-back shrugged off the attentions of Agalarov but with just the keeper to beat he missed his kick and fell to the turf. Replays showed Johnson had simply lost his footing.
With Anzhi getting bodies behind the ball, Eto'o was isolated during the opening 45 minutes. The Cameroon international was reduced to taking out his frustration on his team-mates as he was expertly shackled by Agger and Skrtel.
Reds keeper Brad Jones didn't have a save to make in the first half, although Fedor Smolov dispatched a long range effort narrowly wide.
Worryingly, Johnson didn't emerge for the second half as Sterling replaced him and Downing slotted in at left-back.
There was a greater sense of urgency from the Reds and the chances kept on coming,
Skrtel saw his strike beaten away by Gabulov before Gerrard nodded Shelvey's inviting cross wide.
The breakthrough finally arrived in the 53rd minute. There appeared to be little danger when Downing picked up possession on the left touchline but he cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the far corner. Anfield was engulfed by shock as much as delight.
The Kop's subsequent rendition of 'Stewart Downing, he scores when he wants' was firmly tongue in check.
This was Downing's fourth goal in 57 appearances for the Reds and his first on home soil since the winner against Stoke in the FA Cup quarter-final back in March.
Boosted by the goal, Liverpool poured forward in search of greater reward with Suarez's low drive bending agonisingly wide.
Anzhi responded by introducing £14.5million summer signing from Kuban Krasnodar, Lacina Traore.
The 6ft 8ins Ivory Coast striker lined up alongside Eto'o but with Andre Wisdom once again outstanding at right-back the Reds repelled their advances.
Jones comfortably kept out an effort from Eto'o before Skrtel deflected behind Mbark Boussoufa's strike.
The closing stages should have been made easier when Assaidi was upended by Arseni Logashov in the box but referee Bas Nijhuis inexplicably saw nothing wrong. Suarez's protests earned him a booking.
Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez went close to grabbing an equaliser but the Reds held firm to clinch an impressive victory. Next stop Goodison.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Jones, Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson (Sterling 46), Gerrard, Sahin, Shelvey (Allen 80), Downing, Suarez, Assaidi. Not used: Gulacsi, Henderson, Carragher, Suso, Yesil.