Liverpool were handed their first defeat of the season as late goals from Dries Mertens and Fernando Llorente saw Napoli hand them a 2-0 loss at San Paolo.
Liverpool’s defence of their UEFA Champions League title was off to a meek start, with Napoli dominating the early exchanges. But, the first half saw chances come few and far between, apart from Adrian’s double save from Fabian Ruiz and Sadio Mane’s narrow angled effort up against a well positioned Alex Meret.
The second half began much like the first had, with Napoli coming close to scoring, as Dries Mertens took aim at goal from point-blank range, only for Adrian to pull off a stunning save to deny him. On the other end, there was very little quality to trouble a solid Napoli defence. And, the game took a turn for the worse for Liverpool as the game neared its end.
With nine minutes left in regulation time, Napoli were awarded a penalty when Andrew Robertson tripped Jose Callejon inside the box, although replays suggested it was soft penalty. Mertens stepped up to take the spot-kick and only just beat the flailing hands of Adrian. And, deep into injury time, Liverpool’s misery was complete.
Virgil van Dijk made a rare error to send Fernando Llorente through on goal, with the Spaniard making no error in slotting the ball past Adrian. And so, Liverpool were condemned to a defeat at Napoli for the second straight Group Stage campaign. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Over the course of the game, Adrian did all he could to ensure Liverpool were in it till its final stages. The Spaniard very nearly thwarted Dries Mertens from the spot as well, but could not have done much to deny Fernando Llorente.
Earlier in the game, Adrian had pulled off a stunning save to keep out Mertens’s close range effort following a rare error by Virgil van Dijk, and he made his double save in the seventh minute look easy. Distribution still needs some work, but all in all, it was a strong performance from the backup Liverpool goalkeeper.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6/10
One of the better defensive performances from Alexander-Arnold. While Lorenzo Insigne did get some joy in behind the Englishman on a few occasions, the young full-back also had the measure of the Napoli captain plenty of times, including when he made a crucial interception early in the game. Did not do much going forward, but that was the story of the night for Liverpool’s attack.
Joel Matip: 7/10
It is not everyday that van Dijk’s partner outperforms the Dutchman. But, Tuesday was such a rare occasion, with Matip being solid for the most part. In fact, the Cameroonian international hardly made an error on the night while being tidy with the ball at his feet. Continues to impress.
Virgil van Dijk: 5/10
Only once in a blue moon does Virgil van Dijk fail to be in his elements and unfortunately for him and Liverpool, Tuesday was one such night. Made two glaring mistakes at San Paolo. But, while he was bailed out by Adrian when he was beaten in the air, the second error rounded off the win for Napoli as his wayward pass sent Llorente clean through on goal. A night to forget.
Andrew Robertson: 4/10
Like van Dijk, there are only scarce occasions when Robertson is found wanting on both ends of the pitch. Against Napoli, the Scotsman just wasn’t in it, struggling to cope up whenever Mertens drifted wide. Going forward, he did nothing of note; not often does one say this about Robertson.
While the penalty was arguably a soft one, he made the referee’s job easy by dangling his leg out for Jose Callejon to fall over on. Switched off when van Dijk made a poor backpass, allowing Llorente to have a sight at goal and complete the win for Napoli. An all round disaster for Robertson, who should have been rested.
Jordan Henderson: 6/10
It was a game of hits and misses for Henderson, who made three key passes in the game, including a first-time effort that sent Sadio Mane through on goal. But, off the ball, the Liverpool captain could not help in containing Napoli on a consistent basis, although he did have the measure of his opposite number.
Fabinho vs. Napoli
95% Pass accuracy (62/65)
6/7 Tackles won
2/2 Dribbles complete
1/1 Aerial duel won
I run out of superlatives, to be honest. He is what Liverpool need, and he just delivers. Brilliant. pic.twitter.com/AEdBSIgJfc
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) September 17, 2019
Quite easily Liverpool’s best performer of the night. The best moment of the night from the visitors was produced by Fabinho, when he made a crunching tackle on Fabian Ruiz before sending Mohamed Salah clear. Barely made a wrong pass, completing 62 of the 65 he attempted while also winning 6 of his 7 attempted tackles. An indomitable force in the engine room.
James Milner: 6/10
Back into the side in place of Georginio Wijnaldum, Milner did produce the energy to tackle Napoli and their style and supported Robertson well. But, the veteran Englishman struggled to link play up, with his only notable contribution in attack being a pinpoint delivery from the corner that Roberto Firmino sent wide. Grew out of the game rapidly in the second half.
Mohamed Salah: 6/10
Salah was the best of the lot for Liverpool in attack, but that hardly says much. While he did link up well with Mane for the most part, the end product was missing from his game when he was presented with rare chances, although he did draw a fine save from Alex Meret.
Roberto Firmino: 6/10
On the back of a stunning performance against Newcastle United, big things were expected from Firmino. But, the Brazilian was contained rather well by a disciplined Napoli defence. Should have done better when he had a clear header, however, in what was one of Liverpool’s best chances of the night.
Sadio Mane: 5/10
After the high of this past weekend came the brutal lows for Mane, who was far from his best against Napoli. While he did force Meret into a save, his first touch prior to the shot took him out of the reckoning. Had a horrible weight on some of his passes in key moments, especially when he was two-on-one alongside Salah.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 5/10
On for Milner for the final quarter of the game, Wijnaldum did provide an injection of energy in the Liverpool midfield. But, the Dutch international did not have the necessary goods to drive his team forward and merely continued in the same vein as the player he replaced.
Xherdan Shaqiri: N/A
Given less than ten minutes on the pitch, Shaqiri barely had any time to make an impact.