AMONG the oddest games in living memory.
The draw helped neither side in a sense, but both seemed far too happy with it. No one appeared to have done the maths, the counting.
Start with the guests. Napoli can expect to get a result against Genk. If they fail to beat Genk then drawing at Anfield could contribute to them going out. Winning at Anfield guarantees qualification and makes qualifying top likely. As they should beat Genk. Which they still would like to do, ideally.
Liverpool win tonight and they finish the group top. They don’t win and they need to avoid defeat in Salzburg. Drawing or losing makes no odds. If they win in Salzburg they will finish top, yes. But had they won tonight they would have finished top.
So why on earth did neither side risk very much at 1-1? Liverpool sent van Dijk up late on which suggested they did want to win the game but only truly committed to that late. However, Dejan Lovren doesn’t celebrate his goal earlier. But despite that, Liverpool never quite seem win or bust.
Similarly, Napoli drop to protect what they have more and more at 1-1. Only winning takes the Genk game out of the equation, though.
I mean, god knows. I think it must be tough for both sides to take all this into account but from our point of view we believe Liverpool are the smartest cats in town. That is what they so often show themselves to be. But I think strange situations and this Liverpool side don’t go well together. The side likes win or bust clarity.
So some sympathy with The Redmen tonight. They were treated roughly by a referee, who lost control of the game, and realising his mistake, got his book out and waved a yellow card at Jürgen Klopp. Drink that in. The referee spent his time wasting ours. He was an absolute drain on everyone’s resources.
And some sympathy with the local constabulary tonight. The police have had a challenging few years and now Napoli are in town. All sorts going on. More will come out about off-the-pitch events.
On the pitch, we missed Trent there. His passing, his pace, his pressure. Not that Liverpool weren’t good at the back, we were alright. But the shape of the team felt wrong. Joe Gomez struggled massively.
The link up with Salah was lacking, and wasn’t improved by the mistakes that our number 11 made at times. Giving the ball away in midfield. At his best, Salah is a fine defender as well as arguably the world’s best forward. He won it back better than he made it happen.
If you had to pick a man of the match in this game, you would probably go for goalscorer Dejan Lovren. He was strong and directive and, unlike many tonight, took his chance.
The worst moment was watching Fabinio struggle after going down with an ankle injury. For the next 10 he hopped around trying his best, only for him to come off and be replaced by Gini, who picks up the pace but Liverpool still don’t look as fierce as they should moving forward.
In fact, Mo Salah and Bobby Firmino look toothless against the goalie. They pick balls up and flick them around. But nothing really looks sharp enough in front of goal.
In the 22nd minute, their goal comes pretty much against the run of things, and it did seem as though Liverpool’s defenders were surprised by the whole process. Did they think it was offside? Or were they just not quite so organised due to changes in the team.
Napoli – ridiculous though some of their challenges were – do deserve credit and not for the first time against Liverpool. Their defence was an effective block on Liverpool outlets, even when Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain came on for Joe Gomez to offer more strength in areas with Henderson dropping back.
Koulibaly is a good organiser but it was too easy for him. Liverpool never asked complicated questions this evening.
It feels like more unfinished business and of course it is. Liverpool need to go and get something from Europe’s wildcards in Salzburg. Rather than do their Christmas shopping they need to go and play in the quintessential shop window.
They could have avoided that this evening. But a smart until they were stupid Napoli side made life difficult for an oddball Liverpool outfit.
Five hurdles down. One to go. It might be easy. It might be hard. It might be both in one game. Liverpool will go from the odd to the mad.
In a season where they are making nothing easy for themselves, triumphing Salzburg may become the grandest adventure of them all.
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Napoli came with a game plan to stop us playing. They were able to cut off the supply to the front 3 and slow all our attacks down.
Doesn’t really work having Gomez at fullback especially with Milner, Gini and Henderson in midfield.
We lacked a spark and although it changed when Ox came on we left ourselves too much to do at the end.
Worrying injuries for Fab and VVD and also worrying how we are going to manage all these must win games in February.
Salzburg will be horrible and sandwiched between 2 must win league games at Bournemouth and home to Watford.
Hopefully Fab is back for the Derby as we are going to need him!
Totally agree on the Gomez with that midfield three shout.
If something happens to Trent, the drop off is enormous. We don’t have another Trent, as none in world football currently exist, but it’s the contrasting styles between himself and Gomez that is the most pressing of my concerns should injuries or suspensions take hold, added to the fact that, well, Gomez just isn’t a full back. If Matip, then Lovren, stopped coming in to the side and being boss, as they both have been, especially Lovren I have to say, then this whole Gomez at RB as cover thing is no longer a Gomez at RB cover thing.
It’s one of them isn’t it. If you’re Klopp, do you go and buy cover at full back, good enough cover to step in when needed but one of those fellas that doesn’t mind warming the bench? The full back equivalent of, say, Adrian? I think, maybe for fans’ collective nerves as opposed to me knowing more than Klopp about footy, something needs to happen because what these two full backs give Liverpool is far much more than what a square peg head can do.
Napoli were superbly organised and defended well, but they put an hour’s running into the first 30 to stifle us. By 60, we’d come more and more into it and I commented to mates that they looked absolutely shattered. Then we scored and I couldn’t see anything except a Liverpool win.
The final 25 minutes though (especially the 10 after we scored) might be the most brainless from us for years. We let a team that was hanging on get a breather and then let them off the hook with repeatedly terrible decion-making.
On the face of it, a draw against Napoli is no disgrace, especially when the ref was a joke, but legs are becoming a real issue.
Klopp’s workman like midfield can have days when they stifle the opposition and with world class forwards we win the game. However Klopp knew sometime ago that the default midfield was far too limited and needed steel and craftiness, hence the plan to get Naby, Fab and Fekir. Fab has been excellent but the inability to get Fekir and Naby’s injuries and form mean that the same problems exist. It is essential that Naby comes good and that Ox finds his feet as the default midfield can be painful to watch.
A draw for Napoli at home to Genk puts them through. Draw last night was a good result for them.
I felt the officials were a joke. Mertens did VvD for their goal. He didn’t even look at the ball, he just had eyes on VvD. And that assault on Salah was just that. Koulibaly tried to detach Salah’s head from his body. That sort of thing isn’t allowed in Rugby and the world of wrestling, yet the ref deemed this fit to wave play on. So much for Salah the diver.
Two versatile full backs needed in Jan.Buy them and the title comes to Anfield. Ideally they will be able to play cb or wide midfield if needed.
Or we have players stepping up to chip in