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Liverpool 1, Napoli 1 - Match Recap: Unfinished Business

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The Reds still control their fate in Group E, but couldn’t qualification wrapped up tonight.

Liverpool FC v SSC Napoli: Group E - UEFA Champions League Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Liverpool 1 - 1 Napoli

Liverpool: Lovren 65’
Napoli: Mertens 21’

Pre-Match

Jurgen Klopp makes two big changes from the weekend: resting Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum in favor of Joe Gomez and James Milner. Luckily Mohamed Salah is fit and back in the starting line-up. A winner from the Egyptian (and perhaps another 2 or 3 more for good measure) would be most welcomed again.

The stakes are simple for Liverpool: win and you’re through to the next round. Lose or draw? You’ll need help from Salzburg or a result against them in two weeks in Austria.

First Half

Liverpool start with an aggressive press, and nearly get in a couple of times in the opening few minutes. Roberto Firmino is giving their backline absolute fits. If the home side keep this up, Napoli could be in for another long night.

Oh fuck. Fabinho is down after a midfield collision. It looks like they’re testing his ankle. Klopp immediately turns to Gini to get him warming up on the sideline. Fabinho comes back on for a a few minutes, but cannot continue, and is replaced by Wijnaldum. This is a potentially massive blow, not just for tonight, but for the season. Fingers crossed it’s not a long-term injury.

Milner misses a BIG chance after Bobby creates space with some sorcery in the box. However, Milly can’t get it out from under his feet, and can only manage a weak effort on target.

Goal. Napoli punish Liverpool’s high line, as Mertens scores from a very tight angle. Alisson should probably do better, but it was a well hit strike. To add injury to insult, Van Dijk is now down with a knock. A knock that he got while being fouled in the build up.

As much as we all love Gini, he’s no Fabinho in the DM. The inclusion of Gomez over TAA is creating a lot of uncertainty all over the pitch for Liverpool, and forcing the Reds to play fundamentally different without the attacking, overlapping threat from the right back. It has not been a good response after going behind.

The VAR gods are not with us tonight. Mertens was onside by the finest of margins and VVD appeared to be fouled during the buildup to the goal. And Sadio was not awarded a pen, despite contact. And now Klopp went into the book, despite Ancelotti being in the ref’s ear all night. Speaking of the ref, he’s having a nightmare of a match.

The Reds end with a flurry of half-chances in stoppage time, but can’t quite do enough for a breakthrough. You have to feel that there’s a couple of goals out there yet, but they’ll have to keep up this intensity because Napoli are prepared to sit back and hit on the counter, as they did for the goal.

Second Half

Liverpool come the closest they have all night when the keeper makes a mistake, dropping a cross in front of Firmino. Bobby does fantastically well to turn it on target, but Koulibaly is there to clear it off the line.

Klopp doesn’t wait too long to make his first tactical sub, hooking Gomez in favor of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain before an hour has gone. It appears as if Hendo drew the short straw, and will now be playing right back.

GOAL! Degsy Lovren comes up big on a corner, heading it home! 1-1, and the Reds are back in it.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Mo Salah getting put in a headlock in the box and no penalty given. Did I mention this ref sucks yet?

Klopp makes his final change of the night, bringing on Trent Alexander-Arnold for Milner. Go on Trent, show the world how to play right back.

As the half drags on, Napoli are clearly playing for time, hoping to escape Anfield with a point.

Final Thoughts

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli remain a kyptonite to these Reds. Liverpool did well to play their way back into it on a night when the breaks didn’t go their way. However, they still have work left to do in Salzburg.