Liverpool didn’t deserve anything against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. They came out flat, lethargic, with midfield spacing that helped make the workmanlike trio of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, and James Milner anonymous.
For the entirety of the first half, they simply weren’t in it, set up conservatively to frustrate PSG but lacking the coherency to execute. And yet, while all of that may be true, the poor showing by the referee and PSG’s theatrical antics still rankle.
“It was very frustrating,” was Jamie Carragher’s post-match reaction, with the former Red particularly incensed by Neymar’s play-acting. “With Neymar we’re talking about one of the best players in the world, but watching him tonight was embarrassing.
”If he continues that through his whole career, he’s going to be remembered for that rather than the great player that he is. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth. I have no sympathy for the PSG players if Klopp is angry with them.
“Even Thiago Silva, the captain, a centre-back, rolling round in the corner at the end and holding his face. This is a great team with some great players, they don’t need top resort to these tactics, they should let their football do the talking.”
For his part, manager Jürgen Klopp couched his displeasure with PSG rather better, calling the frequent breaks due to feigned injury “not cool” and noting when a referee “lets that happen you have to deal with it as a team” by changing your approach.
And, at the end of the day, as frustrating as PSG’s behaviour was—particularly in the second half with Liverpool pushing to get back into the game—the reason the Reds lost was their play in the first half and their initial approach to the match.
Klopp had promised a side that would “go for everything” in a game that could have seen their place in the knockout rounds confirmed. Instead, as in so many games this season, Liverpool set up to control rather than to press and attack.
In the league it’s mostly worked, even if it’s made watching this Liverpool side far less enjoyable a prospect than last year’s high-flying outfit. In Europe, though, it’s now played a part in three road losses in the Champions League group stage.
Yet somehow, amazingly, those three losses don’t mean the end of the journey for Liverpool. The football has not been good. And in Europe the results haven’t been there, either. But this team still, somehow, control their own destiny.
“I think it will be 50-50 now,” Carragher added of the final match of the group stage when Liverpool will welcome Napoli to Anfield knowing that a 1-0 victory or two goal win if Napoli do score one of their own will see them into the knockouts.
“I expect Liverpool to win the game. Whether they can do that by two goals, that’s what makes it interesting. In 2005 we had to beat Olympiakos by two goals, we won 3-1 and we did okay in 2005.”