Amidst the media speculation and hype around the ownership situation that has engulfed Anfield recently, Liverpool had a crucial Europa League fixture last night in which they secured a place in a Europa League play-off to reach the group stage with what was a simply stunning performance from the men in red.
Roy Hodgson started with a strong Liverpool team containing all of England's World Cup stars, including debutant Joe Cole, who played superbly in the hole behind David Ngog. Milan Jovanovic was also given an Anfield debut whilst Martin Kelly and Daniel Pacheco were given rare starts.
The Reds started on the front foot, and never let the away side gain a foothold in this incredibly one-sided encounter. The opening stages were dominated with Liverpool possession. The ball was flying around on the ground as the Reds used quick, accurate passes to try and break down the Macedonians stubborn 10-man defence.
This system was successful after only 7 minutes as David Ngog had the ball in the back of the net after he received a pass from Glen Johnson following the right back's rampaging run down the wing. Unfortunately, the linesman's flag denied the young striker his third goal of the season.
FK Rabotnicki's first chance of any note arrived after 13 minutes, as Ze Carlos drilled a threatening free kick into the Liverpool box where Gligorou almost got a touch, however the ball raced through to Cavalieri in the Liverpool goal.
A minute later and Liverpool had almost broken the deadlock up at the other end of the pitch. Gerrard slipped Ngog through on goal with a brilliant pass, but as Ngog tried to round the keeper Bogatinov got a hand to the ball and the chance was gone. It was a wonderful move from the home side, however Ngog definitely should have done better when well positioned.
By this stage every Liverpool attack was being initiated by both Gerrard and Cole as the international teammates controlled the midfield. Cole clipped a wonderful ball into the path of Pacheco in the box, however the Spaniard couldn't control the ball, and the keeper managed to clear the danger.
Soon after Pacheco and Cole were involved again as the former stepped over Cole's pass to allow it to run through to Gerrard, who smashed a shot goalwards only to be denied by the keeper, who tipped his strike around the post.
The resulting corner was played short to Joe Cole. Cole stepped inside the defender before curling a beautiful cross into the box for David Ngog, who headed the ball into the top corner excellently. It was a fantastic goal from the Merseysiders, and richly deserved as well.
After providing an assist Joe Cole nearly scored his first goal for his new club as he audaciously attempted to curl the ball into the top corner from 25 yards out. He went close as the ball flew just over the cross bar.
Rabotnicki were offering nothing in attack and seemed content to sit back and try and stop Liverpool, however Liverpool's fluid style of play allowed us to open up the away side's defence on several occasions.
Hodgson was using the same 4-2-3-1 that Rafa implemented during his reign, however Hodgson allowed the side more fluidity in attack, with Johnson, Gerrard and even Lucas all pressing high up the field in order to keep the visitors boxed into their own half.
Their hardly seemed to be a defensive player out on the pitch for Liverpool as they didn't require them, such was the dormant nature of Rabotnicki's forward line.
With 40 minutes played Ngog, who was the personification of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde last night (one minute a world-beater, next barely even able to convert a simple chance), was bundled to the ground inside the penalty area by Lopes, and a penalty was duly awarded.
Gerrard made no mistake from the spot and coolly converted to double our advantage heading into the break. However, it should have been 3-0 as, with only a minute of the half left, great work from Pacheco and Cole put Ngog through on goal. With only the keeper to beat Ngog unselfishly decided to square the ball to Steven Gerrard, however he didn't receive the cut-back and the chance was gone.
The second half was a formality as the outcome of the game was already secured with Liverpool holding a 4-0 lead on aggregate. Liverpool used the second period to reward the 30,000 fans that had turned out with some scintillating football that, if replicated against Arsenal and Manchester City over the coming weeks, could see Liverpool being hailed as serious title contenders.
Seconds into the second half Joe Cole went close to scoring his first goal for Liverpool as his attempted cross had the keeper scrambling as the ball cannoned back off the cross bar.
Three minutes later Milan Jovanovic, who put in a good, hard-working display, surged infield from the right hand side before firing a strike at goal from 20 yards. It was a good effort, however the keeper managed to turn the ball behind the goal for a corner.
After that, Cole collected Lucas' pass and then spun away from a defender only to see his shot saved by Bogatinov. With the Reds continuing to hold superiority in the game, Rabotnicki were restricted to a long-range effort from Gligorou that went well wide.
On 66 minutes a sublime move involving Lucas, Johnson, Aquilani, Cole and Jovanovic ended with the Serbian international crossing to Ngog, but he couldn't direct his header goalwards, and another fantastic move went unrewarded.
Yet more inventive skill from Cole with 20 minutes left on the clock created space for Aquilani to run with purpose down the right wing. The Italian then crossed into the area, however it was just too far in front of the on-rushing Ngog.
Cole continued to desperately search for his fist goal, and went close with 5 minutes remaining as he headed just over the bar after receiving a cross from Martin Kelly, who was marauding down the left wing like he had played there all of his career.
In additional time Rabotnicki had a great chance to grab a consolation goal when a rapid counter-attack ended with Marcio's close range header being brilliantly deflected over the bar by the back-tracking Martin Kelly.
From the resulting corner loose defending allowed Wandeir to sneak in unmarked at the back post, where his shot struck the base of the post.
Overall, it was a fantastic performance from Liverpool last night, and a pleasure to watch, which is something I cannot say for the majority of the games last season.
With Roy Hodgson's new fluid, attacking and yet stable style Liverpool could really be onto a winning formula.