Napoli have beaten the reigning European Champions as the Champions League returned this Tuesday.
Liverpool went into the game with the expectation of the world behind them following their sixth triumph in the competition this past June. The Reds faced a familiar yet challenging task at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples.
Last season, when the two sides met in Naples during the group stage, Napoli won thanks to a late goal. The same happened this time out.
A late Dries Mertens penalty ten minutes from time gave the hosts the edge, with Fernando Llorente doubling Gli Azzurri’s lead in injury time.
Liverpool played much better than in the same fixture last season, the Reds having the lion share of the chances, creating 11 in total.Embed from Getty Images
Napoli had the ball in the back of the net early. Adrian was forced into making a fine double save before Hirving Lozano managed to put the ball past him, only for the Mexican international to be told his goal was offside.
Napoli’s Senegalese centre-half, Kalidou Koulibaly was the star of the show. The defender put in a dominating shift against Liverpool. Anything that the visiting side offered, Koulibaly was equal to in order to snuff it out.
Mohamed Salah only really got goalside of Koulibaly once. The defender then put Salah under a lot of physical pressure – a position that Salah would have gone down in search of a penalty in times gone by. The Egyptian stayed on his feet and managed a scuffed shot straight into the hands of Alex Meret.
Koulibaly’s opposite number, Virgil van Dijk, also had a great game. The game showed off two of the best defensive players in the world and it was down to luck that Koulibaly, and Napoli, got the better of Liverpool.
Napoli’s first came from the penalty spot via Dries Mertens. The penalty was a point of contention with many believing that the spot-kick shouldn’t have been awarded.
Jose Callejon found himself in acres of space and attacked Andy Robertson as he moved into the box. The Scottish left-back was adjudged to have made contact with Napoli’s Spanish winger. On second viewing, it was clear that Callejon had fashioned the contact himself. The Video Assistant Referee didn’t deem the mistake “clear and obvious” so the penalty stood.
Mertens sent the ball flying past Adrian. Even with a hand to the ball, Liverpool’s reserve keeper couldn’t keep the ball out of the net.Embed from Getty Images
Napoli doubled the damage 10 minutes later. Fernando Llorente – who played in the Champions League final for Tottenham – scored the killing blow following a defensive catastrophe from Liverpool.
None of the players knew anything about what was going on and it made them all look like Championship defenders, not European Champions.
The scoreline does not reflect the game as a whole. Liverpool played much better tonight than when they lost 1-0 in the same fixture last season. Defensive issues towards the end of the game a lack of penetration in the box lead to Napoli being able to secure all three points.
Both sides will still be hopeful of qualifying for the knockout stages. The other sides in the group being RB Salzburg and Genk.
In the other game in Group E, RB Salzburg beat Genk 6-2. The Austrian side now leads the group going into the second round of fixtures.
Liverpool have to pick themselves up for a tough league game away to Chelsea this Sunday. The Reds face Salzburg in their next Champions League game. The Reds will take on the Austrian champions on Wednesday, October 2.