Liverpool were awful in the second half against Sevilla. It was a team effort, from captain Jordan Henderson only completing 55% of his passes through to Philippe Coutinho’s utter lack of involvement in the defensive phase to Alberto Moreno’s two glaring miscues that led to Sevilla goals.
And, at the end of the day, the responsibility lies with the manager, who set up his side naively following the half and was slow to adjust tactically to Sevilla’s mounting pressure. It’s Moreno, though, who has been the one most are blaming for the result, which probably isn’t surprising given his past defensive struggles.
"We threw away three points," Moreno admitted, speaking Spanish radio station Onda Cero following the match. "We played like we were already through to the next round, but it was not to be. We knew that even with a 3-0 advantage it was going to be complicated, and that was the case.”
Moreno rightly has been criticised for two fouls, one outside the box and one in it, that gave Sevilla their route back into the match. Blaming the left back and calling it a night, though, doesn’t do justice to the complete, team-wide collapse Liverpool suffered of account for the manager’s role in it.
While Moreno made the key mistakes, he did it while under nearly constant pressure for 20 minutes, left far too isolated on the left and under pressure from two and often three Sevilla attackers. He was targeted, and it’s entirely fair to say that in part it may have been because of his past defensive struggles.
Yet Liverpool’s team-wide failure to give the left back any meaningful support is at least as much to blame—Henderson’s terrible night in the six, Coutinho’s lack of involvement defensively, Sadio Mané staying high up the pitch looking to spring the counter. All of that helped to leave Moreno exposed.
All of that could have—should have—been addressed sooner by the manager. It probably should have been at the half, with Liverpool taking on a more conservative, more defensive stance in expectation of Sevilla coming out to press the issue and fight their way back into the game.
Even if Klopp didn’t adjust at the half in expectation, there was plenty of time in-game to change things. To shift Mané deeper, rotate the midfield three so it became a double-pivot rather than a single one and Henderson could shade to the left. To, if that failed, bring on Emre Can or James Milner.
Klopp eventually did bring on Can—and he did more defensively than Coutinho had in the same role. And following the introduction of Can as well as Milner for Moreno, who at that stage had been left shattered, Mané also moved deeper. But it came too late, for Liverpool and for Moreno.
Moreno made the key individual mistakes, but individual mistakes are far more likely when you leave any player as isolated and under sustained pressure as Moreno was. In the end, it was a true team effort, starting with the players out on the pitch and running all the way up to the manager.
"We had spoken at half-time about how with a 3-0 lead we still had to be careful,” the left back added. “It was a case of how awful we were and how many mistakes we made at the back. They didn’t stop attacking in the second half—but we came out half asleep."