Late goals from Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez helped Liverpool to a 2-0 win over Napoli but the Italians still finished top dogs in Champions League Group A.
With a lack of jeopardy on the game neither team really moved out of second gear as the chances of Liverpool overturning a four-goal swing to top the group never threatened to materialise.
However, two Liverpool goals did come late on when Salah prodded home from close range after Nunez’s header had been clawed off the line by goalkeeper Alex Meret before Nunez grabbed himself a goal, awarded by VAR, after tapping home from Virgil van Dijk’s initial header which was saved.
Napoli thought Leo Ostigard had headed them in front on 53 minutes but VAR overturned the goal after a three-minute check that found the centre-back had been ahead of the play.
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (7), Konate (7), Van Dijk (7), Tsimikas (7), Fabinho (6), Thiago (7), Milner (7), Jones (7), Salah (7), Firmino (7)
Subs used: Nunez (7), Elliott (7), Ramsey (N/A), Carvalho (N/A), Bajcetic (N/A)
Napoli: Meret (6), Di Lorenzo (7), Ostigard (7), Kim (7), Olivera (7), Ndombélé (7), Lobotka (7), Anguissa (6), Politano (6), Osimhen (7), Kvaratskhelia (7)
Subs used: Lozano (7), Simeone (N/A), Zielinski (N/A), Raspadori (N/A)
Man of the match: Mo Salah
For Liverpool it was a far more positive night at Anfield than Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Leeds in the Premier League.
The last-16 draw, in which Liverpool will be unseeded and could face the likes of Bayern Munich, will be held at 12pm on Monday November 7.
A step in the right direction for Liverpool…
It wasn’t one of Klopp’s epic European nights under the Anfield lights but it was a landmark one as he became the fourth Liverpool manager to reach 400 games in charge of the club, after Tom Watson, Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.
- Jurgen Klopp resisted the urge to play a severely weakened team and made just four changes from the defeat to Leeds. Andy Robertson, Harvey Elliott, Joe Gomez and Darwin Nunez dropped out with Kostas Tsimikas, James Milner, Ibrahim Konate and Curtis Jones handed starts
It’s hard to know which Liverpool will turn up this season after an erratic run of results and it wasn’t clear in this encounter for long periods.
Klopp’s men played with sharpness for short bursts in the first half with Thiago testing the gloves of Meret from range and Curtis Jones – playing as part of the Liverpool front three – heading over following a clever flicked cross from Roberto Firmino.
Napoli are top of the table in Serie A and had won 13 consecutive matches in all competitions before this Anfield trip. They sensed their moment of making it 14 in a row and looked to have taken their chance from a set piece when Ostigard was left free to head home from six yards. However, after a VAR check of three minutes it was deemed that a part of his shoulder was in an offside position to the delight of the majority of Anfield.
The noise was lifted for a short period but with no real desperate urge to win the tie and Tottenham looming on Sunday, a winner for either team looked unlikely. When it came, it was scrappy but Salah didn’t care. Nunez – who replaced Jones with 17 minutes left to play – sent a powerful header towards goal that Meret juggled just about away from his goalline but Salah was quickest to react and just about bundled it over the line, meaning he has scored in his last five Champions League matches.
The scoring wasn’t over as with the last attack Van Dijk’s header from another left-wing corner drew another save out of Meret, who could only fumble the ball towards his goal where the offside-looking Nunez smashed it home. The flag went up but after a second lengthy VAR check it was deemed Nunez was being played on by a Napoli defender. His first goal in the Champions League for Liverpool – the first of many, Klopp will be hoping.
Klopp: Being compact made all the difference
Jurgen Klopp speaking to BT Sport:
“I would have enjoyed the game even without the goals but they are important stuff. We showed a really good reaction.
“Being compact makes all the difference. All of a sudden we have the challenges in the right spaces and we are difficult to play against.
“If you have seen what Napoli can do it was a really good game for us. I saw a lot of courage and bravery. Two set-pieces got us the points and to take 15 (points) in this group is absolutely insane.”
Opta: Reds break Napoli run
- Napoli have never won away from home against an English team in European competition, with the Italian side failing on 12 occasions to date (D3 L9).
- Napoli (P18 W15 D2 L1) suffered their first defeat of the season leaving PSG (19) as the only big five European league side to remain unbeaten in all competitions this term.
- Klopp became the seventh manager to take charge of 100+ UEFA Champions League games, while only Pep Guardiola (61) has more wins from his first 100 games in charge in the competition than Klopp (58).
- Salah has now scored 43 goals in the UEFA Champions League and is just one goal away from equalling Didier Drogba (44) as the top scoring African player in the competition.
Liverpool have three more fixtures ahead of the World Cup. They face Tottenham on Super Sunday this weekend, live on Sky Sports from 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm. They will then host Derby in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday November 9 before their final Premier League match against Southampton on Saturday November 12; kick-off 3pm.
Napoli also have three Serie A fixtures before the World Cup break, facing Atalanta, Empoli and Udinese over the next 10 days.